If you have osteoarthritis, surgery is rarely a first resort. There are plenty of things you can do to avoid (or at least postpone) heading into the operating room. Take care of your knees with these solutions.
Weight loss. For many, weight loss is a basic but crucial way to help avoid knee surgery. Shedding just 15 pounds can cut knee pain in half. And should you need arthritis knee surgery later, you’ll decrease your risk of complications and reduce strain on your knees, which will make your rehabilitation go more smoothly.
Physical activity. The health of your knees depends on movement. Strong muscles support the joint and relieve pressure. Movement keeps tissues within the joint flexible, lubricated and replenished with nutrients that help healing. If you end up having knee surgery, the rehab will be easier if you start strengthening muscles before surgery. Walking is a great way to keep your knees healthy and pain free. Learn more about why exercise is so important if you have arthritis and hope to avoid knee surgery, and get some great ideas for maintaining motivation, stretching, safe moves and more.
Braces. Prescribed by a doctor and fitted by a physical therapist, braces can improve the alignment of the knee, relieving pain.
Corticosteroid injections. Knee joint injections help reduce inflammation, which can alleviate pain without causing side effects associated with oral corticosteroids.
Electrical stimulation. Using electrical stimulation to strengthening the quadriceps (the large muscles on the front of the thigh that help stabilize the knee joint) may reduce knee pain, or it may even encourage regeneration of cartilage cells.
Hyaluronic acid injections. Supplying the joint with this a naturally occurring lubricant – which is lacking in the joints of people with osteoarthritis – may decrease pain, increase function and help delay arthritis knee surgery for some people, although their use is controversial.
Acupuncture. This ancient practice has been shown to relieve knee pain in some studies, but results are mixed.
Over-the-counter medications. The analgesic acetaminophen and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ibuprofen and naproxen can ease pain. But several recent studies indicate that some NSAIDs may delay healing of connective tissues such as cartilage or tendons.
Prescription medications. Several drugs are available to ease pain and decrease inflammation, helping you to delay or avoid that visit to the surgeon. Whether they improve tissues in the joint continues to be investigated.
Dietary supplements. Several dietary supplements and nutrients found naturally in food have been shown to improve pain and inflammation in people with arthritis.