Hip & Knee Treatments

Treating arthritis to restore movement

Your knee is the largest joint in your body and one of the most complex. As a vital aspect of movement that we use frequently, knees are vulnerable to injury. Because it is made up of so many parts, many different things can go wrong.

Knee pain can be a cause for serious concern. As you age, your body changes and muscle strength and bone density decrease.

These changes put you more at risk for a range of bone and joint conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common form of knee arthritis. It is a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle aged and older people. Osteoarthritis of the knee is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Although there is no cure, there are many treatment options available to help manage pain and keep you active.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis: Can develop after an injury to the knee. It is similar to osteoarthritis and may develop years after a fracture, ligament injury, or meniscus tear.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: An inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. It can occur at any age and generally affects both knees.

The symptoms of these conditions can be painful and challenging to deal with in day-to-day life. Pain associated with arthritis usually develops gradually, although sudden onset is possible. Many people report that weather changes affect the degree of pain.

Many patients with arthritis experience stiff and swollen joints, making it difficult to bend or straighten the knee. Pain and swelling are worse in the morning or after a long period of inactivity. Pain may also increase after activities such as walking, stair climbing, or kneeling. The pain may often cause a feeling of weakness in the knee, resulting in a “locking” or “buckling”.

Diagnosing hip & knee conditions

If you are experiencing pain, stiffness, or swelling around your hips or knees, you should have a trained medical professional assess your condition and provide an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnostic methods include:

  • Physical exam by orthopedic surgeon to address gait, range of motion, joint swelling, and tenderness.
  • X-rays to show loss of joint space in the affected knee
  • MRI

Non-surgical treatment

The purpose of treatment is to reduce pain, increase function, and generally reduce your symptoms. The choice of treatment should be a joint decision between you and your physician.

Non-surgical treatments fall into four major groups:

  • Lifestyle modifications – Can include weight loss, switching from running or jumping exercises to swimming or cycling, and minimizing activities that aggravate the condition.
  • Exercise – Can help increase range of motion and flexibility and strengthen the muscles in the leg. Physical therapy and exercise are often effective in reducing pain and improving function. Your physician or a physical therapist can help develop an individualized exercise program that meets your needs and lifestyle.
  • Supportive devices – Symptomatic relief may be obtained by using supportive devices such as a cane, wearing energy-absorbing shoes or inserts, or wearing a brace or knee sleeve. An “unloader” brace shifts load away from the affected portion of the knee. A “support” brace helps support the entire knee load.
  • Other methods – May include heat or ice application, water exercises, liniments, or elastic bandages.

There are also several types of drugs that can be used in treating arthritis of the knee. Because every patient is unique and because not all people respond the same to medications, your orthopedic surgeon will develop a program for your specific condition. Medications may interact with other drugs you are taking, so be sure to discuss these issues with your orthopedist or primary care physician.

The types of prescribed medications may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs – to help reduce joint swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers – to reduce pain.
  • NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are available in prescription and over the counter forms.
  • COX-2 inhibitor – special type of NSAID. For moderate to severe pain. You should not take this drug if you are taking an over-the-counter NSAID. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had a heart attack, stroke, angina, blood clot, or hypertension or if you are sensitive to aspirin, sulfa drugs, or other NSAID’s.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin – oral supplements that may relieve pain from osteoarthritis by helping reduce swelling and tenderness. These supplements can interact with other medications, so keep your doctor informed about your use of them. If you decide to take this therapy, it is important not to discontinue too soon. At least two months of continuous use is necessary before the full effect is realized.
  • Corticosteroids – powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can be injected into the joint. They are not very helpful if the arthritis affects the mechanics of the joint. They can provide pain relief and reduce inflammation; however, the effects are not long lasting. No more than four injections should be given per joint per year.
  • Viscosupplementation with hyaluronic acid – involves injecting substances into the joint to improve the quality of the joint fluid.
  • Gold salt injections – special treatment used for rheumatoid arthritis.

Surgical treatment

When you and your orthopedic surgeon determine that surgery is your next best treatment, there are a number of surgical options.

At West Jefferson Medical Center, we perform:

  • Arthroscopy – a procedure using special cameras and equipment to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint.
  • Osteotomy – the correction of bone deformity by cutting and repositioning the bone.
  • Total or Partial Knee Arthroplasty (joint replacement) – when an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is made of a combination of metal or plastic materials. Many of the millions who choose this procedure enjoy a full return to their lifestyle before osteoarthritis limited their joint functioning, with only some modest modifications or cautions.