Anybody who has suffered from knee pain — and that would be around 50 percent individuals above the age of 40 years with several younger people too — understands the sheer agony it causes. Lying in bed, sitting, standing, walking — whatever you might be doing — there just doesn’t seem to be any relief. In an extreme situation, you might even feel that simply removing the knee might gain you some respite. The culprits are usually osteoporosis, rheumatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, high impact sports, accidents, overweight, wearing away of the fluid in the kneecap, and a sedentary lifestyle which keeps a person in the same posture — sitting or standing — for long hours.
You should seek expert guidance when that aching knee begins to prevent you from going for your morning jog; joining your friends and family on the dance floor, or simply negotiate the stairs comfortably. If you have difficulty in touching your toes keeping your knee unbent, or find it difficult to sit cross-legged; then it signals knee damage. You might have torn the ligaments of your knees, or injured a tendon; damaged a cartilage reducing your knee’s ability to absorb shocks; sprained your ankle causing undue stress on your knees; have contracted some infection which is causing inflammation in the knee joint; or have poor nutritional habits which are undermining your overall health.
Your doctor might suggest medications with physical therapy, and hot/cold fomentation to reduce pain. Unless you know a highly-skilled acupuncturist with an impeccable track record, it would be unwise to try acupuncture as an alternate line of treatment. Measures to control, and reduce pain include knee joint injections, and anti-inflammatory medications. You might be recommended lifestyle modifications, especially diet, to watch what you eat and drink while avoiding known aggravators like dairy products, alcohol, and tobacco; taking mild to moderate exercise, and following regular hours to ensure that you get adequate sleep might help patients below 40 years of age. If any, or a combination, of these, helps reduce your pain levels, you might want to delay getting your knee replaced.
Your doctor might recommend you undergo osteotomy or a mini arthroscopy which is a mini knee replacement. The latter is a minimally invasive surgery as only a small part of your knee, like small broken bones or chips of bones, torn ligament or cartilage is removed. Since many experience pain on the side of their knee, such an option is exercised for them as only the side of the knee is operated on. You can expect to return to normal activities much earlier after a mini arthroscopy.
Patients who might have knock knees; sustained a major fracture, but the bone healed crookedly, and those suffering from cancer of the knee joint might be advised to undergo osteotomy. A portion of the knee bone is removed surgically, and a metal part — usually a rod — is implanted. The downside of such a procedure is that the ability of the knee to bend is lost permanently making it problematic to negotiate stairs or fold your knees when sitting on a chair.
You don’t want to find that your knee has locked just when you are midway crossing a busy road with traffic bearing down on you. You will need to discuss knee replacement, also called total arthroplasty, with your orthopedist, if you notice locking and popping of your knee, or any other aggravation like pain flares when you find that you simply can’t bend your knee even twenty degrees, or lie in bed quietly. If you find that you need the assistance of a stick, a walker, or crutches to get from one room to another, that is when you should consult with your doctor of the pros and cons of total knee replacement. Your doctor’s primary concern would be that your activities of daily living like getting out of bed, or a chair; bathing; moving around the house without assistance; or cooking proceed unhampered.
If you need to be perennially on painkillers of increasing power, and where other options have been exhausted, the doctor will consider a knee replacement. It is the most viable option when you are aged between 50 and 70 years. However, you should not have severe diabetes, very high blood pressure, or the kind of heart disease which might cause anesthetic shock to become life-threatening. You will be advised several tests to indicate that successful total knee replacement is possible. You can expect the replaced knee to remain functional a decade later.