Knee replacements are considered when the joint surfaces on both your femur and tibia have undergone severe degenerative changes and no longer articulate together properly, causing increased pain with movement. Doctors will often tell patients that their knee is “bone on bone,” meaning that the normal gap between the bones has decreased and at least one part of the two bones are touching.

Should I have my knee replaced? This is a question we hear often at Total Therapy Florida. In order to answer this question properly, you need to ask yourself two questions…

1. Have I exhausted all of my non-surgical options?

Physical therapy to improve flexibility in the muscles that cross the knee (the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscle muscles are the major ones) can help reduce the forces that pull the two joint surfaces together. Also, strengthening these muscles can help improve normal motion and shock absorption, which can reduce or even eliminate the pain. Even if surgery is unavoidable, this can greatly improve your recovery post knee replacement. In addition to physical therapy, injections of synthetic synovial fluid (the slippery liquid in your joints) and/or stem cell therapy have been used in treatment of degenerative knee conditions.

2. Has pain or dysfunction caused you to change your lifestyle in a negative way?

Are you no longer conducting your daily walks? Do you avoid steps/stairs at all costs? Have you restricted your travel because of your inability to walk normally? Determining the effect of your condition on your daily function is often a better predictor than pain itself.

If you answered “YES” to both of these questions then it is a good sign that you are ready to consult with a surgeon. However, if you are still able to bear the discomfort and live your life the way you want, then holding off and trying less invasive treatments is a good idea. The technology of joint replacements is improving by leaps and bounds each year, and if you can wait, you should.

One of the most common complaints we hear from our patients after knee replacement surgery is that they were not prepared for what to expect in the weeks and months following. Stay tuned for my next post on “What to expect after having a knee replacement.” If you have more questions regarding the topic of knee replacements, feel free to call or email me today!