There are approximately 700,000 total knee replacement surgeries performed every year in the US.
In every case, surgeons replace the knee joint with artificial parts to relieve pain, improve function and mobility and improve the quality of life of their patients.
For many people, major knee surgery seems like the most viable option for getting rid of knee pain, but few understand exactly what goes into such a procedure.
A Crash Course in Your Knee
Your knee is one of the most complex joints in your entire body.
Where most joints in your body are made up of connections between two bones, your knee (aka the tibiofemoral joint) connects three bones – the tibia (your shin bone), the femur (your thigh bone) and the patella (your knee cap). As a result, the series of tendons and ligaments that help your knee to move every time you sit, stand, walk, climb stairs, run, or get in and out of a car, are even more complex than other parts of your body.
Your knee is also known as a hinge joint where thick cartilage discs cushion the bones so they can move back and forth without pain or discomfort. When this cartilage wears out due to arthritis or injury, you experience pain every time you perform daily activities.
The Total Knee Replacement
Total Knee Replacement (TKR) is done under general anesthesia in an operating room. The surgeon makes an incision between 6 and 10 inches long and moves aside your kneecap. The process of preparing the joint surfaces for the artificial joint begins.
Once everything is ready, the artificial joint is attached. Before closing the incision, the surgeon tests the knee’s function by bending and rotating your knee. In total, the entire procedure takes 2 hours per knee.
A Glimpse at Recovery
Once the surgery is finished, the hard work begins.
You will spend a few hours in the recovery area until the anesthesia wears off. At that point, you will be moved to a hospital room where you can expect to stay between one and four days, depending on how well you recover.
Within 24 hours of surgery, a physical therapist will have you begin walking on your new knee. The more you move the joint the less scar tissue you will have. Your physical therapist will also teach you exercises to do in bed to help mobilize and strengthen your knee.
You will also wear compression socks and boots during the first several days after surgery to prevent blood clots from forming. Physical therapy will continue in the weeks afterward at home, in a physical therapy office, or at a live-in rehabilitation center, depending on your age, overall health, and family support.
The entire recovery process can last anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on how well you heal, and whether you develop complications.
Knee Surgery Alternatives
Knee surgery is a major ordeal.
Anesthesia, hospital stays, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and risk of complication mean it is often the last-ditch effort to relieve pain, improve function and help you regain lost mobility.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to surgery for severe knee pain. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, stem cell injections, and regenerative therapy are all safe, effective, minimally invasive (or non-invasive) treatments that offer a dramatic improvement in pain as well as mobility.
Curious if these alternatives to surgery are right for you? Give us a call or schedule your comprehensive exam with x-rays online.