When it comes to knee pain, it’s not just an issue older people experience anymore. In fact, one in four Americans suffer from knee pain — for a variety of reasons. Dr. Ashish M. Rawal, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Stoughton Hospital, explains common causes, prevention and relief for knee pain.
“The three most common causes of knee pain are overuse, acute injuries (from sports or other activities) and long-term wear and tear, including arthritis,” says Dr. Rawal. “It’s pretty evenly split between older and younger people.”
The first order of business is prevention. Dr. Rawal says there are injury prevention programs for athletes that’ve been shown to decrease the risk of injury by as much as 50%. Other prevention methods include wearing the right shoes, stretching, wearing a knee guard and avoiding overuse.
The first line of treatment for a mild acute injury or chronic pain is RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) — four things you should do immediately to reduce pain. This is often enough to do the trick — at least temporarily — to ease pain and promote healing.
So, when is it time to seek help for knee pain? “For an acute injury, see your primary care provider sooner rather than later,” says Dr. Rawal. “But for a chronic condition, seek help if your quality of life is affected.”
Even after a surgical referral, Rawal says doctors generally work to help you find alternatives such as injections, physical therapy or modifying activities before moving ahead with surgery.
Ligament and meniscus tears may be treated with arthroscopic surgery. But for older patients with a significant decrease in overall function, a knee replacement may be in order. “When you can’t do the day-to-day things that bring you joy,” says Rawal, “we’ll talk — and make that decision together.”
Most people choose custom knee replacements because they tend to fit better and have a more natural feel. “Like having a suit or dress custom-made instead of buying off the rack,” he explains, “a custom knee replacement is made just for you — so no adjustment or compromise is needed.”
What to expect from knee surgery:
- Walk the same day
- Discharge same or next day
- Do most things normally in two to three months
- 100% recovery one year
Dr. Rawal stresses that knee replacements are basically intended for people that are otherwise very healthy and active. Recovery takes a significant amount of investment from the patient — and good support from family or friends to help in the recovery process.
“The toughest part of my job is setting appropriate expectations,” says Dr. Rawal. “The patients who feel they’re doing the worst are usually the ones doing the best — they just don’t realize it because they’re so hard on themselves.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rawal or another provider at the OrthoTeam Clinic, please call the Madison location at 608-231-3410 or the Stoughton location at 608-877-3419.