Arthritis or injuries to the knee can hobble people’s efforts to lead active lives or even to perform basic tasks, such as walking up steps or playing with grandkids.Dr. Michael Meneghini, a joint replacement surgeon with Indiana University Health, offers tips to help people prevent or minimize pain and to know when to see a physician for help.
What are the main causes of knee pain?
It depends on the age of the patient and the nature of the knee problem. People can suffer from tendonitis, such as “jumper’s knee” caused by an inflammation of the patellar tendon, or bursitis, an inflation of a bursa sac.
Another common knee problem is a meniscus tear, which is an injury to one of the rubbery discs that cushions your knees.Arthritis in the knee also can be caused by athletic injury. But the main thing I see in people 50 and older isosteoarthritis, or arthritis of the knee. This is a slow and insidious onset of knee pain as people age.
What are the biggest one or two things peo =ple can do to minimize or prevent knee pain or injury?
Avoid falls and trauma. Keep the muscles strong around the knee. The main thing we know that can help prevent problems is keeping your weight down. People who are overweight have higher incidences of arthritis. And among those with arthritis, those who are overweight tend to have more problems. If you do have arthritis, avoid high-impact activities such as running. Good low-impact activities include using stationary bikes or elliptical machines.
When should someone see a doctor or consider knee surgery?
If you have knee pain, you can take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as ibuprofen and minimize activity. If the pain doesn’t get better, you should see your primary care physician. If it turns out you need knee-replacement surgery, your doctor can send you to a joint-replacement surgeon who can evaluate how bad the arthritis is and whether a partial- or a total-knee replacement would be best. Some younger patients may be candidates for a partial-knee replacement.
What is the biggest piece of advice you give patients preparing for knee-replacement surgery?
Stay in shape. Keep your muscles strong and keep your weight down. One exercise people can do at home is a straight-leg raise. For this, lie on the floor. Bend your one knee while keeping your foot on the floor. Keep the other leg – the one you want to exercise – straight with toes pointed up. Tighten your thigh muscles and use them to raise your leg. It’s also very important to select a surgeon you’re comfortable with.
What can patients who have had surgery do to give themselves the smoothest possible recovery?
The biggest thing is to ice and elevate the knee. The more you can minimize the swelling, the better off you’ll be. Also, the same things that help you prepare for surgery – staying in shape and keeping your weight at a healthy level – will help you recover after surgery.
Dr. Meneghini’s office can be reached at (317) 688-5980.