The first and most important thing to understand is that when possible a physician’s goal should always be to preserve and heal your natural joint. Knee replacement surgery is not able to accomplish that, and therefore should always be considered as a last resort (for reasons that we’ll explain later in this blog post).
The main reason someone has knee replacement surgery in the U.S. is to solve knee pain. Typically, knee pain is caused by something called “chondromalacia”. Chondromalacia is a medical diagnosis term used to describe the erosion of the hard cartilage that coats the surface of the bones making up the joint. This cartilage, which is made out of the same material you see on the end of a chicken bone, serves to protect the nerve endings and blood vessels that live inside of the bone underneath this hard, “Teflon like” coating.
When you have chondromalacia, it indicates that you have basically worn out parts of this hard cartilage, and the nerve endings are less protected or even exposed. Using your joint puts pressure on these nerve endings and results in pain, which in turn causes swelling and inflammation inside of the joint. This creates tightness and more pressure, causing even more pain….and this cycle or feedback loop is what we commonly refer to as “osteoarthritis”. Your knee joint is an encapsulated joint, so it actually becomes more and more tense as swelling and inflammation increases, and that puts more pressure on the nerve endings as well. This is a cycle that keeps going on and on for months and years, and pain is the driver – it’s not just a symptom, it is actually the underlying cause perpetuating the destructive “arthritis” inside of your joint.
Treatments for knee pain have included anti-inflammatory medication like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Cortisone steroid shots, and maybe even hyaluronic acid viscosupplementation, but these solutions are band aids designed to treat the symptoms rather than break the underlying cycle of pain and inflammation.
The orthopedic solution to this problem is to remove and replace the joint. Total knee replacement surgery is essentially cutting out both ends of the bone and replacing or “capping” them with a titanium and Teflon hinge. That sounds like a really big jump, and it’s something that happens a lot in medicine. However, it’s really the only surgical option to treat it. Think about it…if you have a painful cavity in your tooth, you will likely be offered a filling or maybe a root canal. Grinding the tooth down to a post and placing a cap or crown is only used as a last resort if the tooth is beyond repair. Well, that’s essentially what joint replacement is – grinding the ends off of the bones, thus removing the painful nerve endings and creating a post, then gluing an implant like a dental cap or crown to reconstruct the joint.
Here’s why that is the only available surgical option: as you wear out little potholes in the hard and protective hyaline cartilage (the areas of thin cartilage) and put pressure on those nerve endings beneath, it hurts! Surgically, we have two tools we can use to resolve joint pain; 1) arthroscopy and 2) total joint replacement. An arthroscope is a cutting/grinding instrument. If you have a symptomatic torn meniscus, and the meniscus tear is flapping around and getting stuck like a rock in your shoe, it hurts. An orthopedic surgeon will use arthroscopy to trim away the tear. The way surgeons repair a symptomatic meniscus tear is by cutting out the piece that’s flip-flopping and getting stuck. If you have potholes, or worn out areas of the hard hyaline cartilage coating the surfaces of the bone in the joint, an arthroscopy won’t work. It’s a cutting/grinding instrument that cannot address the potholes. So there’s nothing you can do arthroscopically to treat chondromalacia, or potholes in this hard Teflon cartilage.
However, when total joint replacement is performed, the whole joint is cut out, removing the ends where the hyaline cartilage is and where the nerve endings live. So if your knee hurts, the only solution to fix your “knee pain”, in an orthopedic surgeon’s office, is to remove those nerve endings surgically and then place a new implant or “cap” on top so your joint can function.
Total joint replacement is a drastic solution, a major surgery to treat knee pain, and that’s why good orthopedic surgeons always attempt all other less invasive options first. However, once you have that surgery, your knee anatomy will be permanently changed. You’re going to have a mechanical implant sitting on top of the post created by grinding down the ends of the bone for a knee joint. If all goes well and you follow the restrictions published by the implant manufacturer, it should last 10-15 years. Remember, per the implant manufacturer, there are many restrictions on activities and how you can function with that joint: twisting, torquing, tennis (you’re not supposed to play tennis if you have knee replacement surgery) – and more!
There are other nonsurgical options, though. If for the most part you are suffering from knee pain and stiffness, then it is likely that your joint is mechanically functioning and chondromalacia is the only thing causing your knee pain. When that is the case, a total joint replacement is unnecessary; the good news is that you don’t have to cut out your joint and replace it with an implant! AROmotion is an FDA approved microprocedure that breaks the cycle of osteoarthritis by “turning off” the nerve pain. This helps normalize the environment inside of the joint capsule so you can begin healing.
When you come in for a consultation, you will see one of our Board Certified Physical Medical Doctors who will discuss this FDA approved microprocedure designed to mitigate the pain and break the cycle of arthritis. They will also review the different types of orthobiologics that can be used to augment this natural healing process.
After the AROmotion microprocedure, one of our Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Doctors will prescribe and supervise your customized reconditioning program, so that the muscles and ligaments which move the joint return to proper form and function.
Contact us today for a free consultation or visit our website, aromotion.com , to learn more!