Non-surgical Options for Relieving Chronic Knee Pain

Quincy AdamChronic Pain Treatments

Knee Pain on Warning Road Sign
Although the causes of chronic knee pain vary, surgery is far from the only option for its relief. A number of promising non-surgical options, including those discussed below, are available for treatment of knee pain. Talking with your health care provider can help you make informed choices about which options are most likely to meet your needs.

Weight Management Eases the Load on Your Knees

Since every extra pound of weight places extra pressure on your knees, it makes sense that weight management may be the most important step you can take to minimize chronic knee pain symptoms. Gentle exercise can be an excellent way to lose weight while strengthening the muscles that support the knees, further aiding in pain relief.

It can be helpful to work with your physician and/or physical therapist when beginning any weight loss or exercise regimen, as care must be taken to avoid further damage to the knee joint(s). With planning and support, you’ll improve the likelihood of success towards your long term weight loss goal, not only easing chronic knee pain symptoms but also improving your overall health and quality of life.

Knee Injections: Hyaluronic Acid, Cortisone and Prolotherapy

Hyaluronic acid is a substance in the synovial fluid of healthy joints which lubricates the knee and other joints and acts as a shock absorber. In people with osteoarthritis, this acid breaks down, which seems to contribute to joint stiffness and pain. Many people may experience relief from chronic knee pain after receiving hyaluronic acid injections in the knees over a period of several weeks. According to the Arthritis Foundation, hyaluronic acid treatment acts as a lubricant and a shock absorber, but may also have other benefits, such as interfering with prostaglandins and cytokines, compounds that promote inflammation. Pain and swelling as well as allergic reactions can occur, so talk with your doctor to see if you are a good candidate for this therapy.

Cortisone is a corticosteroid drug that mimics the effects of the adrenal hormone cortisol. Naturally occurring cortisol helps lower levels of prostaglandins to reduce inflammation, and cortisone injected directly into the knee joint can provide immediate pain relief during flare ups with results that can last up to several weeks. However, not everyone responds the same way to cortisone shot treatments, and they cannot be repeated frequently due to the muscle wasting and bone loss which occurs with recurrent use. Like any steroid therapy, your doctor may decide to use cortisone injections after other treatment options have proven unsuccessful.

Prolotherapy (Proliferative Therapy), is an orthopedic procedure dating back to the 1930s whereby natural substances are injected into joint and connective tissue to stimulate the body’s self-healing processes. It is also known as Non-Surgical Ligament and Tendon Reconstruction and Regenerative Joint Injection. The types of substances used in the injections include solutions of saline or dextrose, as well as analgesic medications like lidocaine or procaine to relieve pain at the injection site. This type of therapy is aimed at addressing the cause of joint instability to stimulate the body to repair the weakened site and produce new collagen tissue.

In recent years, platelet rich plasma and adult stem cells taken from bone marrow or fat tissue have also been used in Prolotherapy. The types of injection solutions used are selected by the physician after thorough evaluation. Success depends on a variety of factors, including history of joint damage, the patient’s overall health and any deficiencies that would interfere with the healing process.NSAID Drugs Help Reduce Inflammation

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can be prescribed or purchased over the counter to relieve knee pain caused by arthritis. They work by blocking certain enzymes, cyclooxygenase-1 and 2 (COX-1 and C0X-2), which are involved in the body’s inflammatory response. However, NSAID drugs can leave the stomach vulnerable to bleeding and ulcers, and may also increase risk of blood clots, heart attacks and stroke with long-term use.

Holistic and Alternative Therapies

With the range of holistic and alternative therapies available, it can be challenging to decide which methods are most likely to help ease your chronic knee pain. The following, however, are often reported as helpful tools to regain knee health and functionality without the side effects that can occur from long-term NSAIDs use:

  • Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are nutritional supplements commonly recommended for people with joint pain; few studies exist to validate their effectiveness, so discuss any concerns you have with your doctor before adding these to your daily routine.
  • Acupuncture, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, uses thin needles placed at specific locations through the skin on the body to open up energy “blockages.” Acupuncture can result in significant relief from chronic knee pain for some people. Working with a highly qualified acupuncturist is critical to obtain good results.
  • Maintaining a positive mental outlook has been shown to have a profound effect on physical pain. Taking the time to nourish yourself with healthy activities and relationships can be one of the best steps you’ll take towards minimizing pain as well as increasing your quality of life.

Work with Your Physician to Choose the Best Therapies

Before resorting to surgery to reduce chronic knee pain, most health care professionals and patients prefer to attempt non-surgical treatment options. In many cases, patients receive better pain control through non-surgical methods than those that opt for surgery, but care must be taken when selecting which are most likely to be effective at achieving long term pain relief. Maintaining clear and open communication with your healthcare provider is the best way to determine which treatments are best for you.