If you have osteoarthritis in your knee, there may be a point when simple treatments, such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medicines, to alleviate pain and reduce limitations are no longer effective. Once pain and any physical limitations become severe, there are other treatments that might provide relief.
Two types of injections might be used for arthritic pain. Steroid injections are the most common because they can provide a temporary reduction in pain and swelling. These injections are used sparingly, due to the risks associated with frequent injections. In some cases, they may provide months of relief before another injection is needed. Another option is hyaluronic acid injections, which reduce pain by a different mechanism. Instead of reducing inflammation, these injections provide cushion to the joint and supplement the lost cartilage, which aids in ease of movement and reduces friction during movement. This may be a better option for people who need steroid injections frequently.
A newer approach to reducing knee osteoarthritis or possibly reversing some of the damage is an attempt to regenerate lost cartilage. Knee pain stem cell therapy may also have the benefit of reducing inflammation, thereby helping pain. Your own stem cells are used for the procedure, which eliminates the risk of rejection, but you may still experience an immune response after the injection. With stem cell therapy, the undifferentiated cells are directed to the site of damage, in hopes that they will regrow as new cartilage. You will need multiple treatments before it can be determined if the procedure is effective. Some people report a reduction in pain and inflammation, and easier movement of the knee after treatments.
Even with conservative treatments, you may eventually need a knee replacement. Typically, orthopedic surgeons try to limit knee replacements to people who middle-age or older to reduce the chances of needing a revision surgery in the future. The type of knee replacement you need will depend on what part of the knee is damaged and the extent of the damage. Some people will only need a partial knee replacement, which replaces either the ball or socket side of the joint, whereas others with severe, widespread damage will need both sides replaced. Although recovery can be difficult, most people find they are more mobile and experience little or no pain once the knee replacement has fully healed.
Knee osteoarthritis can easily become a debilitating condition as the cartilage wears down and the joint surface becomes eroded. Before a knee replacement is an option, there are other less invasive treatments that can reduce pain and physical limitations.