Think you need knee surgery? Perhaps not. Read on to learn your options.

Home » Arthritis » Think you need knee surgery? Perhaps not. Read on to learn your options.

Did you know that there are several non-surgical treatment options for arthritis of the knee? For many, these treatments can be very effective and can delay or even prevent the need for surgery. Read on to learn more about nonsurgical options that can help maintain joint mobility, decrease pain, and get you back to doing the things you love!


Non-surgical treatments fall into five main categories: lifestyle modification, topical therapy, bracing, drug therapy, and injections. The goal of these treatments is to reduce pain, increase function and generally reduce the symptoms of knee arthritis.

1) Lifestyle Modification. Lifestyle modification can include things such as losing weight or switching from running exercises to swimming or biking. Lifestyle modification can also include the introduction of a simple exercise program which incorporate muscle strengthening exercises to improve thigh strength and range of motion exercises to improve flexibility.

2) Topical (Skin) Therapy. These therapies include applying ice and heat, or creams, such as capsaicin, to affected joints to help relieve pain. Capsaicin cream that is used on the skin (topical use) helps relieve pain by first stimulating and then decreasing the intensity of pain signals in the body.

3) Bracing. These options include the use of unloader braces which can decrease joint loads and relieve pain as well as the use of knee sleeves which can increase stability.

4) Drug Therapy. Several types of drugs can be used in treating arthritis of the knee. Pain relieving anti-inflammatory medications range from aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin, Advil), COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex) and narcotics (Codeine, Oxycodone). Oral supplements such as Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may also relieve the pain of osteoarthritis by stimulating cartilage metabolism and inhibiting cartilage breakdown. Because every patient is different, and because not all people respond the same to medications, your orthopaedic surgeon will develop a program for your specific condition.

5) Injections. Injections typically include corticosteroids or viscosupplementation with hyaluronic acid. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can be injected into the knee to help relieve moderate to severe pain. They can be very useful if there is significant swelling, but are not very helpful if the arthritis affects the joint mechanics. Viscosupplementation involves injecting substances (hyaluronic acid) into the joint to improve the quality of the joint fluid. Many patients have found great relief from hyaluronic acid injections. Recently, however, such injections have come under scrutiny.

The effectiveness of different treatments varies from person to person, thus, the choice of treatment should be a joint decision between you and your physician. The best way to discuss and direct treatment options is through a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon.

For knee pain that limits your quality of life, see our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Terefenko, who specializes in the non-surgical and surgical treatment of the knee and hip. At Arthritis & Joint Replacement Center of Reading, we know your wellness depends upon an approach that addresses all stages of orthopaedic care. See how our ‘Continuum of Joint Care’ can get you back to doing the things you love. To request an appointment, click here to visit our website, or call 610-376-JOINT today.

*This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her doctor directly.*

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Arthritis & Joint Replacement Center of Reading

2758 Century Boulevard, Suite 2
Reading, PA 19610
Phone: 610.376.JOINT • Fax: 610.376.8546

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