The Best Non-Surgical Alternatives For Chronic Knee Pain
Radio Waves That Warm Up Nerves Are a New Knee Surgery Alternative Another relatively new alternative to knee replacement surgery is cooled radiofrequency ablation. The procedure… Aisha Abdullah -
March 8, 2023
Radio Waves That Warm Up Nerves Are a New Knee Surgery Alternative
Another relatively new alternative to knee replacement surgery is cooled radiofrequency ablation. The procedure involves using an electrode to first heat up the nerves around the knee joint and then cool them down. This process, known as cooled radiofrequency ablation, interferes with the nerves’ ability to send pain signals to the brain. The treatment was approved to treat knee pain in 2017 and is not as well studied as other knee pain treatments.
However, one study found that around three-quarters of people who received the treatment reported significant improvements in symptoms six months later. A more recent study found similar results in 80 percent of patients after a year. The procedure is outpatient and minimally invasive but can be quite expensive.
Topical Pain Medications Can Alleviate Arthritis Pain
Treatments for chronic knee pain don’t always have to involve pills or injections. Topical pain medications can be applied directly to the joint, providing fast pain relief. Topical treatments may come in gel, cream, spray, or patch forms that deliver the drug right where it’s most needed. One major benefit of topical treatments is that they typically have fewer side effects than other pain treatments because they aren’t interacting with the rest of your body.
Topical pain treatments often contain salicylates (aspirin), which is an anti-inflammatory pain killer. Capsaicin is a chemical that naturally occurs in chili peppers. When added to topical pain treatments, capsaicin causes a heating effect that prevents nerve cells from sending pain signals to the rest of the nervous system. Other topical pain medicine active ingredients are chemicals like menthol and lidocaine, which reduce your perception of pain.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy May Help Repair Damaged Knees
Our bodies have an incredible ability to heal after injury and illness. Platelets are blood cells that cause blood to clot and play an important role in tissue healing. Experimental platelet-rich plasmatherapy harnesses the healing ability of these cells to repair damaged tissue, such as a torn Achilles tendon.
This type of treatment that induces the body to heal itself is called regenerative medicine. For people with osteoarthritis, the procedure involves taking a patient’s blood, extracting the platelets, and injecting them directly into the knee joint. When combined with other treatments, platelet-rich plasma reduces knee pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis. Although the results are promising, more studies are needed to determine if the therapy is an effective treatment for knee pain on its own.
Stem Cell Therapy is an Experimental Knee Pain Treatment
Like platelet-rich plasma, stem cell therapy is another experimental, regenerative knee pain treatment that uses a patient’s cells to help them heal. Stem cells can produce many different types of cells, including cells that can replace or repair damaged tissue. The bone marrow, the soft tissue inside our bones, contains billion of stem cells that will become blood cells.
Bone marrow concentrates (BMC) are stem cells that have been extracted from a patient’s bone marrow, which can then be injected into the knee joint. The goal of the treatment is to encourage the healing of damaged cartilage in the knee. Similar to platelet-rich plasma therapy, there isn’t a lot of data about the effectiveness of BMC injections in treating knee pain. However, animal studies have shown promising results, and there’s an ongoing clinical trial in humans.
Acupuncture is an Alternative Medicine Approach to Knee Pain
Acupuncture is a practice adopted from traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into the skin to relieve pain and inflammation. There isn’t much scientific evidence to back up the effects of acupuncture, but many people swear by it. Some practitioners believe that the therapy increases blood flow or promotes the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that help alleviate pain. Because there is no clear method and the technique is difficult to standardize, it’s unclear how much of the healing powers of acupuncture are simply a placebo effect.
One study found that osteoarthritis patients who received acupuncture treatments were no more effective at reducing pain than placebo. However, there is some evidence that acupuncture may help improve osteoarthritis symptoms when paired with other treatments. Some experts, including the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation, recommend acupuncture on the condition that it may be worth trying.
Prolotherapy Uses a Sugar Solution to Trigger the Immune System
Prolotherapy is an alternative therapy that claims to relieve pain by injecting a dextrose sugar solution into the joint. The solution causes irritation in the joint, which triggers your body’s immune response to start healing the damaged area. Like many alternative medical approaches, there is some evidence of a slight benefit of prolotherapy but not enough for most doctors to recommend it.
Some small studies have shown slight, short-term improvements in knee pain following the treatment. But the lack of long-term data or controlled studies makes it difficult to determine how much of the benefit is a placebo effect. Although the effectiveness of prolotherapy is debatable, the treatment is inexpensive and has few safety concerns. Some doctors say that as long as patients are continuing other, more proven treatments, there’s no harm in trying prolotherapy.
Many People Use Walking Aids Like Canes to Manage Knee Pain
Taking pressure off your knee can go a long way toward reducing knee pain. Walking aids are designed to help you do just that by allowing you to transfer your weight away from your knees. There are many different types of walking aids; it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. Canes are probably the most common mobility aid, for a good reason. They are affordable, can be purchased in most pharmacies, and don’t require a learning curve to use.
Canes come in many different styles and may have additional feet for added stability. A crutch may be helpful when you’re dealing with a flare-up of knee pain. The devices prevent you from putting too much weight on your knee but can be uncomfortable to use long-term. Walkers provide the most support and stability of any walking aid. You can even buy walkers with seats so you can rest if you’ve been on your feet too long.
Supporting your knees with braces or orthotics (shoe inserts) can help reduce pain and stiffness. Braces wrap around the knee and keep your knee steady and aligned without putting too much pressure on the joint. Braces may be inexpensive compression sleeves that also help reduce swelling or a more expensive unloader brace that allow you to shift weight to the healthier side of your knee.
Orthotics are shoes or shoe inserts that help take pressure off of your joints. They can provide relief if you’re experiencing milder knee pain or want to avoid further damage. Just switching to shoes with better support can do wonders for your knees.
Supplements Help Support Healthy, Pain-free Joints
Your doctor may recommend that you take dietary supplements in addition to other treatments to help manage knee pain. The most common supplement for osteoarthritis is glucosamine and chondroitin, which are two components of cartilage. A large study found that glucosamine supplements slightly improved knee pain and mobility compared to placebo. Another study found that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin was effective at alleviating knee pain, inflammation, and stiffness, at least as effective as the prescription NSAID celecoxib.
The anti-inflammation supplement SAM-e has also been found to be as effective as over-the-counter NSAIDs at reducing pain from osteoarthritis. Although supplements typically have fewer supplements than other treatments, it’s important to speak to your doctor before starting any supplement plan.
Your diet impacts every aspect of your health, including the health of your joints. Because knee pain is often caused by inflammation, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help you manage your symptoms. The best foods for reducing inflammation are fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and sardines, that are packed with omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fat. Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens, lean protein, healthy oils, and whole grains are important parts of an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods to avoid processed junk foods like potato chips, foods high in added sugar and cholesterol, and red meat.
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