OEBB

Alternative treatments

It is important to understand and consider all factors — including additional costs — as you discuss treatment options with your provider.  When it comes to treatment for knee problems, surgery is not your only option. Many alternative treatments and self-care options are as effective, less invasive and less expensive.  

A recent advance in the performance of total knee replacement is the use of a minimally invasive surgical approach. This technique, still in its relative infancy, is more challenging than standard total knee replacement. The incisions are approximately half the size of those used in a standard approach. The smaller incisions and new techniques to expose the joint may result in short-term advantages such as quicker rehabilitation, less pain and a shorter hospitalization, according to some reports.

The minimally invasive approach to the total knee replacement is appropriate for non-obese patients who have reasonable motion without significant deformity. Hospitalization may be reduced to less than three days among these patients, and the need for an extended stay for inpatient rehabilitation may be reduced or eliminated in most patients.

Other alternatives to knee replacement surgery relate to lifestyle changes.

  • Regular exercise may help strengthen the muscles and potentially stimulate cartilage growth. Avoid high-impact sports. The following types of exercise are recommended: range of motion, strengthening and aerobic.
  • Orthoses are assistive devices used to improve function of moveable parts of the body or to support, align, prevent or correct deformities. Splints or braces help with joint alignment and weight redistribution. Other examples include walkers, crutches or canes, and orthopedic footwear.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications also can help. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first drug recommended for osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine was found to increase blood sugar in animal studies, so people with diabetes should consult their doctor before taking it. A recent study showed that glucosamine slowed progression of osteoarthritis in the knee.

Resources

Please visit these resources for more information:

Knee Replacement. 2010. National Institutes of Health

Knee Replacement. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). 1998-2010.

Arthritis: Knee Replacement Surgery. WebMD.  Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 01, 2008. Edited by Marc C. Levesque, MD, PhD on February 01, 2007. 'Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005.

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