According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 19.5% of American adults suffer from chronic knee pain. This pain can result from a variety of causes, ranging from poorly healed fractures to ACL injuries to osteoarthritis.
But no matter the cause behind your flare-ups, you naturally want to find a solution. You shouldn’t have to live with daily pain, and you can’t help but wonder if you need knee replacement surgery to restore movement to your joint.
If you notice any of the following signs, you may be a candidate for the procedure.
1. You Need Stronger Medications
Although knee pain stems from multiple factors, most cases involve inflammation to some degree. Over-the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol, Bayer, or Advil can minimize the body’s natural inflammatory response, giving you the relief you seek for mild sprains and arthritis.
But over-the-counter medications are not a long-term solution for chronic pain. If taken in large doses over an extended time, these drugs can cause liver and gastrointestinal damage. Additionally, the body eventually develops a tolerance for these pain-relievers, so you need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect.
To promote healing, your doctor may recommend stronger treatments, such as cortisone injections or lubricating injections, and these injections fight inflammation directly around the knee joint. If you do not respond to these injections within the first 24-48 hours after treatment, you may require knee replacement surgery.
2. You Have Greater Difficulty Performing Routine Tasks
Mild knee pain can leave you limping for a few days. With a little rest, ice, and relaxation, however, you can feel like your normal self in almost no time.
In contrast, intense, chronic knee pain severely limits your mobility. You may struggle to stand up or sit down in a chair. You might need assistance climbing into or out of the bathtub. Or you might see the stairs as an insurmountable obstacle in your home.
As your knee worsens, your ability to perform your routine tasks decreases. You may find that only a cane or walker can provide you with the support you need to move from room to room, and even these mobility devices can’t give you any relief from the dull aches and sharp pains.
If your knee pain continues to interfere with your overall quality of life, you likely need knee replacement surgery to function at your best.
3. Your Knee Looks Deformed
After an injury, the body sends a flood of white blood cells to the site, and these blood cells fight bacteria and viruses that would otherwise slow the healing process.
Unfortunately, arthritis and similar autoimmune diseases cause the white blood cells to attack the body’s own tissues, rather than invading cells. As more cells rush to the knee joint, they may leak fluids into the surrounding tissue, causing the area to swell.
In extreme cases, the swelling may become so severe that the knee joint appears deformed. And as the knee tries to adapt to chronic pain and swelling, the joint may bulge outward or to the side of the leg,
If one of your knees looks markedly different from the other, you may need knee replacement surgery to correct the alignment and restore damaged tissue.
Talk to an Orthopedic Surgeon About Your Knee
Knee replacement surgery involves removing the injured joint and replacing it with a metal or plastic prosthesis. For many patients, this treatment effectively restores mobility, alleviates pain, and corrects underlying issues in the joint.
However, this surgery isn’t for everyone. If your pain is bearable with medication, if you haven’t fully explored alternative and conservative treatments, or if you have additional health concerns that may affect the outcome of the surgery, then you may want to hold off on the procedure.
To determine whether knee replacement surgery is right for you, talk to an orthopedic surgeon about your pain and symptoms.