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At-Home Treatments Aren't Helping My Knee Pain — Do I Need Surgery?

At-Home Treatments Aren't Helping My Knee Pain — Do I Need Surgery?

Knees are among the most active joints in our bodies. Every day, they take a lot of pounding and pressure, so it's no surprise that knee problems are incredibly common. Knee pain affects people of all ages and fitness levels. 

When conservative at-home treatments fail to improve knee pain, it’s understandable to inquire about knee surgery. Yet, undergoing surgery is never an easy decision. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to treat knee pain. The first step is to consult with an orthopedic specialist. 

Dr. Matthew Pifer is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and knee repair. Dr. Pifer offers platelet-rich plasma and stem cell therapy, two cutting-edge treatments that can, in some cases, delay or eliminate the need for surgery. 

If knee surgery is the best approach to repairing your knee, relieving pain, and restoring function, Dr. Pifer has extensive experience using minimally invasive approaches. 

Causes of knee pain

Let’s discuss some of the most common causes of knee pain.

Meniscus tears — The meniscus is cartilage that helps to stabilize the knee. If you twist too quickly, it can tear. Meniscus tears are common in certain sports. Patients with osteoarthritis are also at a greater risk for meniscus tears.

Ligament injuries – The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) of the knee are the most vulnerable to tearing. Athletes in sports that require quick pivoting are at a higher risk of ACL and MCL injuries. 

Iliotibial band syndrome — This inflammatory condition is usually the result of prolonged overuse. It's common in runners’ knees.

Osteoarthritis — General wear-and-tear can result from years of use. When the cartilage that cushions the bones wears away, osteoarthritis develops.

Rheumatoid arthritis — In this form of arthritis, the membranes around the joints thicken and inflame, causing cartilage damage.

Patellofemoral pain — This is the most common cause of knee pain in young adults

Dr. Pifer will perform a thorough evaluation, including a physical exam and gathering a detailed medical history to determine what’s causing your knee pain. Imaging tests allow our team to see what’s going on inside the joint. 

Treating knee pain without surgery

It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options prior to deciding together on surgery. Treatment for knee pain usually begins with approaches such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections. 

By the time patients see Dr. Pifer, they’ve often already tried these measures without adequate improvement. Biologic treatments, such as platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) are a non-surgical option that may significantly improve knee pain in some cases. 

PRP uses the patient’s own blood to create a concentrated source of platelets, which contain powerful growth factors. When injected into the injured area, PRP harnesses the body’s own ability to heal itself. 

When surgery is the best option

Surgery may be necessary to repair the knee if it is severely injured or damaged. Arthroscopy and total knee replacement are two surgical options. Each one serves a specific purpose.

Arthroscopic knee surgery

This minimally invasive procedure involves making small incisions in the affected area to treat it. Knee arthroscopy can be used to repair the ACL or the meniscus. It can also be used to treat kneecap problems and remove damaged tissue. Patients experience less pain and stiffness as a result of the small incisions used in this surgery.

Knee replacement surgery

A total knee replacement is a more involved procedure that involves replacing the worn-out or damaged parts of the knee joint. Metal implants replace the existing cartilage and bone, and a plastic spacer between them creates a smooth gliding surface.

You don’t have to put up with chronic knee pain that’s stopping you from living life to the fullest. Dr. Pifer can help find the right treatment for you. For a comprehensive evaluation and treatment options, call or request an appointment at our Santa Barbara, California office today. 

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