Our knees are the largest joints in our body. They allow us to stand, walk, run, climb stairs and maintain balance. An injury or years of wear and tear on the knees can significantly impact your quality of life.
Are knee issues normal?
To put it simply — yes. Knee pain is very common and most adults will experience it at one time or another. Most of the patients I see as a joint replacement specialist are experiencing knee problems due to arthritis or degenerative issues that happen over the course of years. Sports medicine specialists see a younger group of patients that typically have issues from injuries.
When should I see a doctor for my knee pain?
If you’re experiencing pain quite often or your mobility is being impacted, you should see a doctor. The one thing that’s really important to stress is that just because you go to a doctor doesn’t mean you need surgery right away. Most orthopaedic surgeons start with conservative measures first. This can include modifying your physical activity or losing weight if you need to. Additionally, other options can include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, injections, or sometimes using a brace.
How do I know if it’s time for surgery?
We turn to surgery once the conservative options are no longer enough, people are still bothered by the pain every single day and it impacts their ability to do activities, such as going up and down stairs, sitting, standing, or exercising. It is also important that a patient is healthy enough for surgery, including not being severely overweight, which can increase the risks of complications. During knee replacement surgery, we remove the damaged cartilage and bone that’s been worn down and replace it with a new surface over the ends of the bones. Many surgeons in the U.S. do this robotically today.
What is recovery like from a total knee replacement?
Nearly a million people in the United States will have a total knee or hip replacement this year and the vast majority of them will do very well — seeing a big improvement in their quality of life. Many healthy patients can even go home the same day. Recovery does depend on how healthy someone is prior to their surgery — with nearly everyone able to walk the day of surgery. Generally, most people are back to most activities after eight weeks. During that time therapy will help patients build back strength and slowly integrate their normal activities. The majority of patients are better than they were before surgery within a few weeks. Patients do not plateau with the recovery until about a year after surgery.
Dr. Robert Kennon is an orthopedic surgeon with the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at MidState Medical Center. For more information, visit ctorthoinstitute.org or call (833) 203-7523.