Treatments will vary, depending upon what exactly is causing your knee pain.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve pain and to treat underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Strengthening the muscles around your knee will make it more stable. Training is likely to focus on the muscles on the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and the muscles in the back of your thigh (hamstrings). Exercises to improve your balance are also important.
Arch supports, sometimes with wedges on one side of the heel, can help to shift pressure away from the side of the knee most affected by osteoarthritis. In certain conditions, different types of braces may be used to help protect and support the knee joint.
In some cases, the injection of a corticosteroid drug into your knee joint may help reduce the symptoms of an arthritis flare and provide pain relief that lasts a few months. The injections aren't effective in all cases. There is a small risk of infection.
If you have an injury that may require surgery, it's usually not necessary to have the operation immediately. Before making any decision, consider the pros and cons of both nonsurgical rehabilitation and surgical reconstruction in relation to what's most important to you. If you choose to have surgery, your options may include:
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- Arthroscopic surgery. Depending on your injury, your doctor may be able to examine and repair your joint damage using a fiber-optic camera and long, narrow tools inserted through just a few small incisions around your knee. Arthroscopy may be used to remove loose bodies from your knee joint, remove or repair damaged cartilage, and reconstruct torn ligaments.
- Partial knee replacement surgery. In this procedure (unicompartmental arthroplasty), your surgeon replaces only the most damaged portion of your knee with parts made of metal and plastic. The surgery can usually be performed with a small incision, and your hospital stay is typically just one night. You're also likely to heal more quickly than you are with surgery to replace your entire knee.
- Total knee replacement. In this procedure, your surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone and kneecap, and replaces it with an artificial joint made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.
- Knee problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Knee_Problems/default.asp. Accessed Jan. 23, 2013.
- Firestein GS, et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1807/0.html. Accessed Jan. 23, 2013.
- Anderson RJ, et al. Evaluation of the active adult patient with knee pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 23, 2013.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Jan. 23, 2013.
- Common knee injuries. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00325. Accessed Jan. 23, 2013.
- Zeller JL, et al. JAMA patient page: Knee pain. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2007;297:1740.
- Laskowski EL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 28, 2013.
- Calcium pyrophosphate deposition (CPPD). American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/pseudogout.asp. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Kalunian KC. Nonpharmacologic therapy of osteoarthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Kalunian KC. Pharmacologic therapy of osteoarthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/gait. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Acupuncture for pain. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.