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Knee Pain & Surgery – What’s the Right Call?

One of the most common complaints we hear as a physios is “I’ve got bad knees from….football or netball or work etc” often followed by “it’s just my age” or “I need new ones”! So what should you do if your knees are giving you trouble? When is the time to call the physio and when is the time to call the surgeon? The answer could be a lot simpler than you think.


Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common cause of knee pain as we get older. OA is classed as the 11th highest contributor to global disability (Cross et al. 2010) and can be described as “ A process where the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. The changes to these tissues can lead to pain and joint stiffness”. Some people like to refer to this as normal ‘wear and tear’ of the joint as we age and it CAN be managed

through non-surgical means.


Exercise is Medicine


Over 50 randomised control trials and 4 international guidelines recommend exercise as the best intervention for people with painful knee OA, not arthroscopies (commonly referred to as a “clean up” of the joint cartilage) or a total knee replacement.


Although the underlying process cannot be reversed symptoms can be effectively managed.


Staying active and strong and maintaining a healthy weight may slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.


The evidence strongly supports exercise over surgical intervention but if you have knee pain, it’s hard to walk, sitting for long periods hurts and going up and down stairs is a challenge, you might think exercise is the last thing that is going to help. However, this is where your friendly Physio can help .


How can Physiotherapy help?


We’ll provide an accurate assessment, guidance around appropriate types of exercise, pain management and loading advice to get you moving without causing you more pain.


So, you can increase your strength and endurance whilst decreasing your pain! There is definitely a time and place for total knee and hip replacements, but your first course of action should be safe and appropriate exercise, guided by a professional. Even if a joint replacement is required down the track, strengthening before your surgery will give you a better result and faster recovery.

So don’t put up with nagging knee pain, see a physio and get moving!


Laura Gee

Physiotherapist APAM


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