If you have painful or aching knees, you may start wondering if you should consider a knee replacement surgery. The number of these surgeries performed in the last decade has doubled, with over 600,000 total knee replacements done in the United States in 2010. At this rate, the number is expected to grow to almost 3.5 million procedures annually by 2030. Most knee replacements are done due to the presence of osteoarthritis. But with surgery rates increasing so rapidly, might there be some unnecessary surgeries being performed?
A recent study has indicated that this is indeed what is happening. About one third of all knee replacement surgeries are not needed. If the patient’s X-rays did not show dramatic arthritic changes, which many did not, the knee pain could have been handled in a different way. Many of these people were younger than age 55, meaning that they would be likely to need another operation later in life when the artificial joint wears out. Many patients and doctors start thinking of a knee replacement when knee pain is present, which could respond to muscle strengthening instead.
Many people’s quadriceps are too tight. Many people’s hamstrings are too weak. Strong calf muscles can help with both of these problems. Doing exercises to address these issues for as little as two weeks
can show improvements in knee pain. Committing to physical therapy with a therapist you trust, and then implementing those exercises at home will definitely help you, even if you ultimately do ultimately end up in surgery.
--Dr. Kate Kennedy