You've taken the anti-inflammatory medications. You’ve done the pain pills. You’ve even tried the hard-to-pronounce glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the alternative supplements for osteoarthritis.
You've stayed off your knee. Walked with a cane. Done the cortisone injections and given physical therapy your best shot. You've even lost a few pounds to ease the pressure.
But your knee still hurts. A lot. You feel it before you get out of bed in the morning. Or maybe it stays swollen and has begun to bow. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you may need knee replacement surgery.
Finding Out if You Need Knee Surgery
The knee is the most commonly replaced joint in the body. But your orthopedic surgeon won’t make the decision to operate lightly. They’ll take your complete medical history, everything from your overall health to specifics about your knee pain and how it affects your life.
You'll also have a physical exam so your surgeon can check out how your leg lines up and how much motion, strength, and stability you have in your knee.
X-rays are a key tool. They'll give your surgeon a better idea of whether your bone is damaged or deformed. An imaging test called an MRI will give a more detailed look into the bone and soft tissues around your knee.
You also may get a blood test to rule out, or point to, other causes for your knee pain.
What Are Your Options?
If your doctor decides a total knee replacement is the way to go, you can learn about how much it might help, possible complications, and what to expect after surgery. If you are obese, most surgeons will insist you lose some weight.
Your surgeon may decide that a total knee replacement isn't right for you. They may talk about other treatment options like arthroscopic surgery, joint preservation procedures, or a partial knee replacement.