If you think that knee pain only happens to athletes and the elderly, you’re sadly mistaken. Knee pain can happen to anyone, both young and old, but luckily, you have more options today than any other time in history. To go over all your potential options for knee pain as an alternative to surgery, we spoke to the CEO of Integrated Pain Consultants, Dr. Nikesh Seth, who is also an award-winning health care professional named “Top Doc” in the field of pain management by Phoenix Magazine.
Whether you have chronic or acute pain in your knees, you know how difficult it can be to do everyday tasks: walking up stairs, standing for long periods of time, and sometimes even sleeping. Dr. Nikesh Seth explains that one of the first things your physician might try is a lifestyle modification. Depending on your unique condition, your physician may recommend weight loss, avoiding activities like running or intense contact sports, and modifying from high-impact exercises to lower-impact exercises. They may also consider reducing the number of carbohydrates and sugar in your diet to decrease the amount of inflammation in your knee (which will also help you lose weight and reduce the amount of stress on your knee!). As with all other medical diagnoses, it is important to take a holistic approach to changing problematic behaviours before considering more drastic alternatives like medication or surgery.
Another thing your physicians might suggest is certain exercises or physical therapy to enhance strength and flexibility. Exercise can strengthen your leg muscles and reduce your pain, as many forms of knee pain can be mitigated by exercise. Dr. Nikesh Seth notes that a physical therapist can design a regimen that reduces pain and strengthens the key muscles that affect your knees, they can also work with you to ensure you are doing them correctly, and will follow-up to see if you are making progress. They might also try electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, or other procedures that can increase blood flow to the skin, helping to reduce pain.
If either of these options fail, there are medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers and topical creams with the numbing agent lidocaine or bupivacaine that may help control your knee pain. Dr. Nikesh Seth states that your doctor may also recommend a steroid injection in your knee to help reduce the pain. Steroids are injected at the site of inflammation, and mimic naturally occurring hormones in your body. They typically reduce pain within a few days and can last several weeks.
If you have osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that can cause problems with the knees, your doctor will likely recommend knee injection therapy before recommending surgery. There are currently a variety of injections available, and they can be extremely effective in mitigating knee pain. The first one they might recommend is viscosupplementation, also known as gel injections. During treatment, a substance called hyaluronic acid is injected directly into the knee joint to add to the quantities of this acid naturally present the body. In healthy joints hyaluronic acid acts as a shock absorber and lubricant, allowing joints to move smoothly over each other. However, the acid appears to break down in people with osteoarthritis. Injecting it into a joint may lessen pain and inflammation. The injections are given weekly for three or five weeks, depending on the product. A small amount of joint fluid is removed first to make room for the hyaluronic acid.
Dr. Nikesh Seth recommends that if you have continual pain in your knees that you visit a medical professional so that you can get started on the path to treatment before the situation worsens.
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