The Causes of Chronic Knee Pain
Injury, arthritis, or other types of deterioration can cause chronic pain in the knee requiring a total knee replacement. Arthritis is considered the leading cause of knee pain and disability and typically manifests in three ways:
- Osteoarthritis – the normal wear and tear from aging can erode the delicate cartilage in the knee joint and can result in the knee bones rubbing against each other causing considerable discomfort and reduced mobility.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – a disease that causes significant swelling of the synovial membrane that surrounds the knee joint, resulting in cartilage degeneration and causing pain and stiffness.
- Trauma-related arthritis – a severe knee injury or accident can damage the knee cartilage, ligaments or bones resulting in rigidity and deterioration of the joint.
When Is Total Knee Replacement Surgery Recommended?
Total knee replacement surgery is almost always considered as a last resort for alleviating chronic knee pain. Patients usually try an array of non-surgical methods to reduce discomfort and restore movement including:
- Physical therapy and strengthening exercises
- Pain medication
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid injections
- Other Injections
However, when those methods fail, a knee replacement may be the next step to allow you to return to your day-to-day activities safely without pain.
A surgeon may recommend total knee replacement for patients who experience:
- Significant knee pain that interferes with daily activities such as sitting, lying down, and walking
- Chronic knee inflammation that does not get better with rest or medication
- Knee deformities including bowed legs or “knocked knees”
Most patients who opt for total knee replacement surgery are older than 50-years. Even so, the procedure can be safely performed on most adults of any age.
What is a Total Knee Replacement?
Roughly 700,000 total knee replacement surgeries are performed every year. As the population ages, that number is expected to increase significantly in the next 10-15 years. During total knee arthroplasty, state-of-the-art components comprised of metal and specially-designed plastic are used to replace the damaged bone and cartilage of the knee.
The surgeon typically operates in four phases:
- Remove the injured cartilage and prepare the bones
- Position the metal implants and recalibrate the structure of the knee joint
- Resurface the kneecap and place a custom-made plastic button behind the patella
- Insert a plastic spacer between the metal components to create a smooth surface that will allow the joint to move fluidly
“I had a total right knee replacement with Dr. Jordan about ten weeks ago, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had,” says Henry. “It’s turned out fantastic. I followed his instructions, and he kept me going slowly on it. His idea was, ‘I want you to have total flexibility.’ And he said we’re going to work on three things: motion, motion, and motion. That’s what I’ve done, and it’s unbelievable the amount of movement I’ve recovered.”
Recovering After Total Knee Arthroplasty
Over the last three decades, technological refinements and improvements have made total knee replacement one of the most successful surgical procedures for the treatment of knee arthritis. Medical sources confirm that 90% of patients who undergo total knee arthroplasty have significantly less pain afterward. And studies show that 85% of artificial knees continue to function well after 20 years. The components’ longevity plays a major role in the procedure’s popularity.
The vast majority of patients experience considerable improvement in both pain and mobility within weeks of surgery. After surgery, it is critical to follow a rehabilitation program with a certified physical therapist to restore strength and flexibility of the knee. After about six weeks, most patients walk comfortably with minimal support, and after muscle strength is reestablished, patients can enjoy most daily activities again (except running and jumping).
Henry concurs. “The physical therapist I worked with, he can’t believe the amount of motion and flexibility that I’ve been able to get back so quickly,” he says. “It’s been a total, great experience. And I know it’s 100% because of Dr. Jordan’s expertise. I got the mobility back with no pain, and it’s been an exceptional journey that I’m very pleased about. I think Dr. Jordan is the full reason all this happened.”