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Total Knee Replacements: Tips to Successfully Avoiding Surgery for Knee Pain

Over the last 20 years we have been fortunate enough to witness some of the biggest advancements in areas such technology, science and medicine.

One such result of this was the further development of the Total Knee Replacement or TKR for short.

A TKR, also known as knee arthoplasty is a surgical procedure to replace the weight bearing surfaces of the knee joint with artificial materials to relieve pain or disability.

That looks and sounds pretty cool right?

Yes!  

Having the ability to replace a badly damaged knee due to:

  1. Age related, osteoarthritic changes
  2. Severe Injury or trauma
  3. Infection or cancer 

Is an exceptional position to be in from a society standpoint, and one that we shouldn’t take for granted.

But when it comes to any surgical  intervention it bares risks.

The stats say that around 80% of TKR’s are very successful with patients returning to a high quality of life.

So where does that leave the other 20%?

Usually suffering:

  • Stiffness
  • Reduced range of movement
  • Ongoing or Persistent Pain
  • Poorer quality of life
  • On the hamster wheel of chasing another fix to their ongoing knee issue.

Why does a knee replacement go bad?

These are just some the potential possibilities of a TKR that doesn’t go to plan.

The reasons can be many and varied… 

  • Maybe it was your body’s reaction to having surgery?
  • Or its response to a having a foreign body in it?
  • Did the person complete their entire post-operative rehab?
  • Where they even offered post operative rehabilitation? (you would be surprised how many aren’t!)
  • Was the function of the knee and person prior to surgery so bad that replacing the joint couldn’t possibly fix the surrounding problems?
  • Did they attempt other conservative measure and exhaust them prior to jumping under the knife?
  • Was the level of pain the person was in prior to surgery and was it poorly managed?
  • Was the person a good candidate for surgery in the first place?
  • Was their identifiable or modifiable factors that could have been address pre operatively to improve success?

There could be many more reasons, many more unknowns and even more “who knows?” after the surgery has been completed. 

Alternatives to Total Knee Replacements

It is evident that more often than not TKR’s are successful and I am not here to drive the fear of god into you and preach you shouldn’t undertake a knee replacement. 

However, I believe it is in a patients best interest to look at alternate measures first and exhaust these before diving into any form of surgery,

Especially an invasive surgery like a TKR.

What are the alternatives to avoid knee surgery?

PHYSIOTHERAPY

There’s nothing more powerful when comes to rehab than good physio.

A lot of the time through education, guidance and following an individualised treatment plan, people can overcome their knee pain without surgery.

EXERCISE

The gold standard in not only helping to reduce knee pain, improve range of motion and overall function of the knee.

But if done well throughout ones life can be a great preventer in knee deterioration.

Exercise, such has resistance training can increase the strength of muscles and other joints that support and stabilise the knee, therefore reducing the amount of load that is absorbed by passive structures that leads to pain and further deterioration.

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

Being overweight and having poor a diet, can indirectly lead to development of knee pain and the deterioration of important structures within the knee.

By changing our habits, and reducing weight to within a healthy weight range it can really help those who are currently living with knee pain.

LOAD TOLERANCE

As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, this can impact our bodies ability to tolerate load.

If we are to injure our knee, this can further impact the bodies ability to tolerate load, leading to more pain.

The importance of education around re-developing load tolerance, can be key to returning to the activities that you have once loved, but feel you can no longer do anymore.

"But I have Tried All That!"

Yep, we have heard that before!

A lot of the time people have tried it, but did they complete it?

The answer is always NO. 

They started, it got hard, they had some pain and they stopped.

Over coming any injury, pain or a chronic condition like osteoarthritis is hard, is painful and requires persistance before you can call it a failure!

If you are someone suffering with knee pain, and are thinking about heading down the surgical route, but are yet to give exercise physiology or physiotherapy a real go, let us know we can help! 

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