Managing Joint Pain Without Knee Replacement Surgery

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 percent of adults in the United States have arthritis, leading to pain, swelling or stiffness in one or more joints. Any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis, but it is particularly common in the knee, which can damage a patient’s ability to get around and enjoy life. For severe knee pain, however, there are a number of steps they can take before jumping to knee replacement surgery.

“We’ll always try the conservative path first,” said Dr. Robert Olive, Jr. with the CHI St. Vincent Orthopedic Clinic in Hot Springs. “That’s what you want to do. You never want to just jump into surgery, because you might be able to get a patient by for years with simple medication or injections. The surgery is always the last resort when nothing else works.”

With more than 30 years of orthopedic experience at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, Dr. Olive helps patients identify various options for managing joint pain, starting with an active lifestyle. Even something as simple as a daily walk can decrease swelling and inflammation in the joints, providing much-needed relief from pain.

“The old saying that ‘joints in motion stay in motion’ is very true,” Dr. Olive said. “Staying home all the time will make your pain even worse, but getting up and getting out will do so much good.”

As social distancing practices have limited opportunities for physical activity, keep in mind that it’s important to ease into exercise and not put too much stress on the joints. “Don’t expect to get out there and walk five miles the first day,” said Dr. Olive. “Start with walking around the block and work yourself up to something more.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is another way to find relief from joint pain before resorting to knee replacement surgery. Excess weight gain can lead to immense strain on the joints, particularly when moving around.

“Any excess weight on your body is going to put excess weight on your joints, but it will be multiplied,” Dr. Olive said. “For example, every extra pound that you carry on your belly, that’s going to be about four extra pounds of force on your knees just standing. Any extra weight can lead to wear and tear on the joints that you wouldn’t experience otherwise.”

For those who continue to experience joint pain in their knee even with a healthy weight and active lifestyle, medication can limit the effects before they become unbearable. From over-the-counter options such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen, to prescription strength medications and injections, there are a number of potential solutions before a knee replacement surgery is needed.

“I don’t ever come in and immediately tell a patient that they need to have surgery,” said Dr. Olive. “If somebody presents to me for the first time and their knee looks like two bricks rubbing together, there may not be anything we can do, but we always want to try those other options first.”

When all options have been exhausted and it’s ultimately decided that a knee replacement surgery is necessary, Dr. Olive and the CHI St. Vincent Orthopedic Clinic offer each patient the best joint replacement treatment and personalized support available. From joint replacement education to a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program, the CHI St. Vincent can help you take the next step towards a lifestyle you deserve. To learn more, visit: