Promising nonsurgical pain relief for hips and knees


Promising nonsurgical pain relief for hips and knees

If hip and knee joint pain is preventing you from taking part in many of the activities you love, but yet you are reluctant to seek out surgery, consider nonsurgical treatments methods.  Even though surgery can have good results, with any surgery there is always a certain level of risks - anesthesia complications, bleeding, blood clots, infections, delayed healing, severe scarring or injury from the surgery.

Fortunately, there are several nonsurgical treatment methods for hip and knee pain.  These methods can be very effective in helping you get moving again pain-free, without surgery.  Here are four methods to consider before choosing surgery:

1.  Therapeutic exercise

One of the best ways helping reduce stress and pain within a knee or hip joint is to strengthen the muscles around that joint.  If you build up and strengthen the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles around those joints, this relieves your hips and knees from having to do as much work to support your body weight.  Having strong quadriceps muscles can also take on the shock-absorbing work of the meniscus or cartilage in the knees, the area most susceptible for pain.  Working on making your muscles strong around the joints allows them to be held in the most functional and least painful positions.  Regularly performing flexibility exercises can also help to improve joint function.

To correctly do such types of exercise, work with a physical therapist.

2.  Weight loss

One of the most common reasons and risk factors for knee and hip osteoarthritis is people who are overweight or obese.  Our joints carry the weight of our bodies.  The more weight you have to carry, the harder it is for your joints to work properly.  The chances of developing arthritis are strongly associated with body weight.  It’s probably the most important risk factor especially for knee osteoarthritis accounting for up to 50 percent of the reason why people develop it in the first place.  However, there can be thin people with arthritis and heavy people with healthy joints.

People with a high body mass index (BMI) tend to get arthritis at a younger age.  When surgical joint replacement is done at a young age – less than 60 years of age – it can complicate treatment because the replacement is more likely to wear out in the patient's lifetime. 

Losing weight may not reverse the damage that has been done to a joint, but research has shown that even moderate weight loss can have a dramatic effect on the relief of joint pain. While getting down to a normal body weight is a good idea for people who are overweight, starting with reasonable goals like losing 10 or 20 pounds can help with joint pain.  Studies have shown that a weight loss of 11 pounds decreases the risk of developing knee arthritis by 50%.

3.  Gait retraining

The way you stand, run or walk can have a major influence on joint pain, but the problem may take years to present itself.  Having hip and knee pain can disrupt your walk by restricting your joint movement and can weaken the muscles in these areas.  A physical therapist can analyze your gait or the manner in how you walk and from there, can help you learn to move more efficiently.  Changing the way your walk may feel strange at first.  It takes practice and perseverance but eventually it will become more comfortable and natural.  Changing shoes or using inserts to achieve better alignment can also be a suggestion a physical therapist may recommend.  Doing so can help improve your gait to strengthen muscles that can help restore a more aligned gait.

4.  Nonsurgical techniques and procedures

If wanting to delay surgery or if surgery is not an option, there are several newer nonsurgical techniques and procedures to consider.  One recently approved by the FDA is called “cool radio frequency ablation.”  It is an option for those with moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain who are not ready for knee replacement surgery.  The procedure uses radio frequency to target and mute nerves responsible for sending pain signals from the arthritis knee to the brain.  It doesn’t repair arthritis in the knee but ease the pain, helping patients get back to activities without discomfort and fewer medications. 

Another option is therapeutic ultrasound which uses sound waves to increase blood flow, relax muscle spasms, and aids healing.  A gel is applied to your skin and then an ultrasound wand is used over your skin around the painful area.

Iontophoresis uses electrical currents to speed the delivery of medication to damaged tissue or to simply reduce muscle spasms and related irritation.  Patches similar to a Band-Aid are placed on the skin, and a painless, low-level current is applied for about 10 to 15 minutes in which you may feel a warm or tingling feeling during the treatment.