Each year in Australia, a staggering number of knee replacement surgeries are taking place. It is estimated that over 50,000 alone are osteoarthritis-related, due to the approximate 2.2 million Australians who suffer from the condition.
For those managing osteoarthristis of the knee, or another injury or issue which requires surgery weighing up the options of a knee replacement can be daunting.
To help, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of knee replacement, and what other options you have for treating knee pain.
What is a knee replacement?
A knee replacement is a surgical procedure which involves replacing the knee joint itself. This most commonly involves replacing the surface area where the cartilage is worn away, but in some more serious cases a larger part of the joint may be replaced.
A combination of metal and plastic components are used to create an effectively functioning joint.
These procedures are performed under general anaesthetic and after a period of recovery (between 6-12 weeks), the replacement can last anywhere up to twenty years.
The pros and cons of knee replacement surgery:
- Alleviation of chronic pain without need for constant medication.
- Improved function and movement of the joint allowing for more regular activity.
- Improved lifestyle without the need of assistive devices.
- Confidence and stability in movement.
- Risk of complication or infection during or post-surgery.
- Cost of procedure.
- Life of replacement means it’s not suitable for younger people (under 60).
- Requires extended period of downtime for operation and recovery.
Do I need a knee replacement?
The decision to undergo a major surgery like this shouldn’t be made lightly. If your doctor recommends a knee replacement, speak to them about the reasons why, and get a second opinion to be sure.
In general, a knee replacement should only be done when all other options have been exhausted. For many people, by treating the knee conservatively and making lifestyle changes, the symptoms of arthritis and other knee pain can be greatly alleviated without needing surgery.
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What other options do I have?
Before requiring a replacement, there are many options to treat and manage the knee to relieve pain and discomfort.
Tips to manage knee pain without surgery
Wearing a knee brace
When osteoarthritis (OA) in the knee reaches a certain point, even the most basic of movements can cause pain.
Wearing a knee brace that unloads the joint can allow for normal movement of the knee with minimal joint contact, minimising pain, inflammation and swelling.
Working with a physiotherapist is always a great idea for severe knee pain, as it helps not only to relieve that pain but also restore function and movement in the knee, unloading and strengthening it naturally.
By undergoing regular therapy, you can put off the need for surgery by years.
Learn more: Is it okay to walk with knee pain?
Often factors in your life can affect your knee health and general comfort. By simply making some changes, you can reduce the pain and offset the need for surgery. Some of these changes include;
- Weight loss
- Anti-inflammatory diet, including ginger, turmeric, fish and more plant based foods.
- Regular low-impact exercise like swimming, cycling and walking (on softer surfaces).
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