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Preparing for Knee Surgery? Read This Before Getting New Knees

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Getting new knees is just a part of aging, right? But what if there was a way to prevent your need for painful knee surgery? According to new research, alternative methods for treating OA in the knees may be just as effective as surgery.

Are you suffering from knee osteoarthritis? Are you considering knee replacement therapy? Before agreeing to this surgery, take a look at the effectiveness rating of the surgery and alternative treatment options before beginning the somewhat invasive treatment method.

The True Effectiveness of Knee Replacement Surgery

One of today’s most common surgeries is knee replacement for individuals suffering from knee osteoarthritis. According to the University of Queensland, in 2013, there were 450,000 knee joint replacement surgeries completed in Australia. In the United States, over 600,000 procedures are completed each year, according to data from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

In the United States, the cost of these procedures is around $11 billion dollars per year. This astronomical cost makes less sense with the revelation that the procedure is only effective in about half of all cases.

According to a study conducted by the Women's College Hospital and the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in 2013, only half of individuals who participated in the Canadian study reported feeling less pain and improved mobility after the procedure.

Data from a 2014 study from Australia projected that the number of knee replacement surgeries is expected to increase up to 700 percent in the United States over the next few years, due to the increases in the number of aging persons and the increases in general obesity. This could increase the total amount spent on arthritis-related knee surgeries to nearly $8 trillion. The high cost of the procedure combined with the low success rate is pushing medical researchers to look for new treatment methods that may be more effective.

According to Dr. Narelle Wyndow, author of the University of Queensland study, many doctors, “know little about the features of this disease or what treatments may be effective.”

If you are considering knee replacement surgery, it is important to identify all the possible risks as well as alternative treatment options that may be equally as effective, and possibly more so, at reducing knee pain and stiffness due to osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the joints that causes deterioration in cartilage. The destruction of cartilage causes the bones to rub together, causing pain and stiffness. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an inflammation caused by an autoimmune disorder, OA is caused by a variety of risk factors, which include:

  • Obesity
  • Injuries to joints
  • Age
  • Stress on joints from sports or physical jobs
  • Genetic defects

OA is the most common form of arthritis and can affect the hips, knees, elbows, and other joints. Many people suffer from OA as they age. You can tell if OA is forming if pain and stiffness occur during activities like squatting, walking up and down the stairs, and during exercise.

Studies on the Effectiveness of Knee Surgery

According to the Canadian study outlined above, the success rate for knee surgery is around 50 percent. The study examined about 2,400 people with OA and found that 202 of these patients had received knee surgery. Of those 202 patients, 50 percent reported meaningful improvement one to two years after their surgery.

For the most part, the patients who reported the most benefit had knee pain only and did not have arthritis in other joints or other health problems. 83 percent of the study participants had multiple joint problems. The study authors estimated that 25 percent of knee replacement patients will require another joint replacement within two years, costing at least another $18,000.

One of the study authors, Dr. Hawker, stated that “physicians lack a set of established criteria to help determine what patients will benefit from surgery and at what point during the course of the disease."

This thought has inspired recent studies that have examined possible outside treatment methods for OA as alternatives to knee replacement, including a 2014 study from the University of Queensland that is currently investigating whether switching out different shoes can help alleviate some knee pain and prevent the need for surgery.

Alternative Treatment Methods to Knee Surgery

Since knee surgery is only effective in about 50 percent of cases, individuals suffering from knee pain should examine alternative treatment options before having an expensive and invasive surgery performed. Below is a list of scientifically-backed alternative treatments that may be effective in reducing arthritis pain in the knees and other joints.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the biggest contributing factors to the development of OA is obesity or being overweight. According to studies, every extra pound of bodyweight places the pressure of 4 additional pounds on your knees. According to research from the University of California, an overweight person who loses 10 to 20 pounds is often enough to lessen joint pain enough to prevent the need for surgery or other medical treatments. This reduces the weight placed on the knees by up to 80 pounds.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Certain foods and supplements are linked with a reduction in OA symptoms and pain. According to research, some of the most helpful supplements for OA include glucosamine sulfate, ginger, rose hips, fish oil, avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs), and (s-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe).

Helpful Supplements for OA
  • Glucosamine sulfate
  • Ginger
  • Rosehips
  • Fish oil
  • ASUs
  • SAMe

A variety of foods that fight inflammation may also help reduce OA pain and joint pain. These foods include nuts, seeds, fish, onions, garlic, mustard, horseradish, parsley, pickles, lemon, and celery. Avoiding inflammatory foods, including processed foods, junk food, and vegetable oils may also reduce joint pain and stiffness.

At the very least, eliminating these substances from the diet will help maintain a healthy weight.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise builds up strength in the joints (unless you are a long-distance runner). Most people will see significant benefits in joint stiffness and joint pain by engaging in regular activity. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and lifting weights, can even build additional muscles surrounding the joints which can protect the knees and joints from pain and needless strain. Regular exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight.

Health experts recommend a combination of weight-bearing and cardio activity for optimal health. Any additional amount of exercise will be beneficial for reducing arthritis pain.

Try Knee Bracing

A study from The University of Manchester in 2013 found that knee bracing was particularly effective at reducing OA-related pain. The study examined 126 patients suffering from OA for 12 weeks. The participants received either initial brace treatment or delayed brace treatment. Each group wore the brace for about 7 hours a day for 12 weeks.

After 6 weeks of wear, the brace group reported significant improvements in pain, OA symptoms, knee stiffness, and muscle strength. At 12 weeks, all patients who wore the brace reported significant improvement in all symptoms.

According to the study participants, wearing the brace made their knees feel stable, secure, and supported. The researchers theorized that wearing the brace not only improved support and pain levels but gave the participants more confidence in using the knee normally, which promotes healthy knee healing on its own.

According to the study authors, “this approach is a real advance over-relying on pain killers and has the potential to reduce the end for joint surgery and replacement…”

Try Different Shoes

A variety of studies show that getting enough support on the knee joints can reduce pain and joint stiffness. Solutions as simple as getting new inserts for your shoes or trying a more supportive shoe may be enough to alleviate much of the pain associated with knee-related OA.

While different shoes and supportive gear will do nothing to heal or reverse the progress of OA, it could provide enough of a symptom block while you employ other methods to heal the knees without the need for invasive and painful surgeries.

Once a Year Treatment

According to a 2014 trial currently in progress conducted by Monash University, it may be possible to slow the progression of osteoarthritis by taking once a year treatment of bisphosphonates, rather than every few months as commonly prescribed today. This would cut down on the side effects associated with the treatment.

Another study currently in progress is examining the potential for cholesterol-lowering drugs to slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

Try Topical Treatments

Some topical treatments can help prevent pain in the joints. One of the most popular OTC remedies is capsaicin cream. Capsaicin cream is made from the ingredient that makes chili peppers taste hot. According to some doctors, the reason that rubbing a spicy cream on the joint works is because it depletes the nerve ending of pain-impulse-transmitting chemicals, which can work to reduce pain and inflammation in the area. Placing a hot or cold pack on the joint when symptoms flare up may also help reduce pain and stiffness.

Avoid Knee Surgery Naturally

With the above methods, it may be possible to eliminate the need for controversial knee surgery. According to current medical research, the best thing you can do for the health of your knees is to maintain a healthy weight. Individuals who are overweight are much more likely to have knee pain and develop arthritis in the knees. Combining a healthy weight with the other alternative therapies could be enough to completely eliminate the need for expensive joint surgeries now and in the future.





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