Treatments will vary, depending upon what exactly is causing your knee pain.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve pain and to treat underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
- Physical therapy. Strengthening the muscles around your knee will make it more stable. Training is likely to focus on the muscles on the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and the muscles in the back of your thigh (hamstrings). Exercises to improve your balance are also important.
- Orthotics and bracing. Arch supports, sometimes with wedges on the inner or outer aspect of the heel, can help to shift pressure away from the side of the knee most affected by osteoarthritis. Different types of braces may help protect and support the knee joint.
- Corticosteroids. Injections of a corticosteroid drug into your knee joint may help reduce the symptoms of an arthritis flare and provide pain relief that lasts a few months. The injections aren’t effective in all cases. There is a small risk of infection.
- Hyaluronic acid. This thick fluid is normally found in healthy joints, and injecting it into damaged ones may ease pain and provide lubrication. Experts aren’t quite sure how hyaluronic acid works, but it may reduce inflammation. Relief from a series of shots may last as long as six months to a year.
If you have an injury that may require surgery, it’s usually not necessary to have the operation immediately. Before making any decision, consider the pros and cons of both nonsurgical rehabilitation and surgical reconstruction in relation to what’s most important to you. If you choose to have surgery, your options may include:
- Arthroscopic surgery. Depending on the nature of your injury, your doctor may be able to examine and repair your joint damage using a fiber-optic camera and long, narrow tools inserted through just a few small incisions around your knee. Arthroscopy may be used to remove loose bodies from your knee joint, repair torn or damaged cartilage and reconstruct torn ligaments.
- Partial knee replacement surgery. In this procedure (unicompartmental arthroplasty), your surgeon replaces only the most damaged portion of your knee with parts made of metal and plastic. The surgery can usually be performed with a small incision, and your hospital stay is typically just one night. You’re also likely to heal more quickly than you are with surgery to replace your entire knee.
- Total knee replacement. In this procedure, your surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap, and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.