Published on July 25, 2022

An older couple exercising.

Knee replacement and other options help treat pain and improve mobility

Knee pain is typically caused by arthritis, but it also can be the result of an injury. Symptoms that accompany knee pain can include swelling, stiffness, popping or crunching, and instability or a sense of the leg giving out.

The most common medical conditions that cause knee pain are osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis such as gout. Nearly half of all adults develop arthritis in one knee during their lifetime. Infection can be another cause of knee issues, although it is less common.

Injuries to the knee can include meniscus tears, ligament injuries and bone fractures. These injuries are often the result of degeneration over many years. A sudden event such as twisting the knee can also cause an acute injury that makes a chronic condition worse.

"When knee pain and other symptoms persist and affect daily activities, it’s time for an evaluation and consultation,” said Mick Kelly, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacement. Dr. Kelly is part of a medical team that provides comprehensive orthopedic care and performs joint replacement surgeries at ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital.

Many joint issues may be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, injections, physical therapy, exercise, weight loss, assistive devices or a combination of these options. Surgical intervention is considered when the quality of life is impacted and other measures cannot solve the problem.

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating problems related to bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. An orthopedic surgeon can help you develop a personalized treatment plan to alleviate knee pain and meet your goals.

Surgical advances, including minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery, can result in long-lasting outcomes for patients. Today, 85% of all knee replacements last an average of 20 years.

In collaboration with anesthesiologists, surgeons have developed pain management techniques that allow patients to recover with significantly less pain and return to previous activities much earlier than in the past. More than 90% of people who have knee replacements experience a significant reduction in pain.

"If surgical intervention such as knee replacement is recommended, your surgeon will talk with you about your options," Dr. Kelly said. "Some patients are candidates for partial knee replacement while others may benefit from total knee replacement, possibly with robotic assisted surgery."

Robotic knee replacement allows the surgical plan to be executed with pinpoint accuracy. The process involves a high-speed camera, tools with sensors that communicate with the camera, and a saw that cuts bone with great precision.

Most knee replacement patients are able to leave the hospital on the same day. Post-surgical pain is managed by nerve blocks and medication. More than 90% of people who have knee replacements experience a significant reduction in pain once they have fully recovered from surgery.

When you schedule a knee replacement consultation, make sure that your surgeon has the most advanced training and that the surgical center has the latest equipment. Ask about nationally recognized accreditations for the type of surgery you plan to have.

Your care team should also include a nurse navigator, radiologists, imaging technologists, nursing professionals trained in orthopedic care, rehabilitation therapists, and social workers who provide education, support and resources.

If you are experiencing knee pain, contact your primary care provider or an orthopedic surgeon who has advanced training in hip and knee replacement. Ask about the best treatment options available to you.

With an individualized plan of care and support, you can experience significantly less pain and get moving again.