The knee is the largest joint in your body and is responsible for supporting most of your body weight. It consists of three main bones—your lower leg bone, called the tibia; your thigh bone, called the femur; and your knee cap, called the patella. These bones are supported by many muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage that work together to support mobility and flexibility.
Because your knees support your body weight, they are particularly susceptible to damage and injury. These injuries can develop into chronic knee pain and disabilities such as arthritis and osteoporosis. In most of these cases, the cartilage that cushions the tibia and femur wears away, usually in people 50 years of age or older. When the cartilage is worn away, the bones will begin rubbing against one another, causing stiffness and joint pain.
For certain knee pain – usually caused by osteoarthritis – knee replacement surgery is needed to treat chronic pain in the knee. Osteoarthritis is defined as the breaking down of joint cartilage, potentially impairing one’s ability to perform standard functions such as walking, climbing stairs or kneeling. However, health professionals will usually suggest alternative medical treatments for knee pain before considering replacement surgery. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss
- Walking assistance devices
If these treatments do not alleviate the pain, or the joint damage begins to interfere with quality of life, your doctor may suggest knee replacement surgery. This procedure is incredibly common and is performed over 600,000 times each year in the United States alone. During a full knee replacement surgery, the doctor will remove the damaged joint and replace it with a prosthetic alternative made from metal or plastic.
Undergoing this surgery involves a short procedure, usually lasting one to three hours. During this time, the damaged cartilage is removed from the ends of the femur and tibia. These are then replaced with the implants, which are cemented and eventually fused with the bone. Finally, a spacer is inserted between the metal end caps of the femur and tibia, ensuring smooth operation of the knee.
After knee replacement surgery, the patient will stay in the hospital for a couple of days, depending on their rehabilitation process. After a day of bed rest, the patient is encouraged to begin walking around, allowing them to get accustomed to the new knee. In many cases, physical therapy sessions will take place in order to strengthen the knee and reduce risks of future complications. The patient will then spend about three months fully recovering from the surgery. They will be able to drive after six weeks and can return to work after eight weeks. Their physical therapy sessions will normally last around two to three months.
Recent studies have determined that 90 percent of modern knee replacement are still functioning normally 15 years after the initial surgery. As long as you follow your surgeon’s instructions after the surgery, visit a chiropractor, like with a knee pain doctor in Mesa, AZ at LifeCare Chiropractic, and physical therapist regularly and take care of your new knee replacement, you will be enjoying your healthy knees for years to come.