Does Surgery Fix Knee Pain? Causes & Treatment

Medically Reviewed on 3/16/2022
Does Surgery Fix Knee Pain
Depending on the cause, surgery can fix knee pain and improve strength and flexibility. Learn about causes and treatment options for knee pain

Depending on the cause, surgery can fix knee pain and improve strength and flexibility. Learn about causes and treatment options for knee pain, both surgical and nonsurgical.

What causes knee pain?

Knee pain is very common, due to the location of the knee joint and the role it plays in many motor functions. Even the slightest problem in the knee joint can cause pain or discomfort with even slight movements.

Obesity and advanced age are risk factors for knee pain, and runners or athletes who participate in sports that require jumping or quick rotation are more likely to develop knee injuries.

Common causes of knee pain include:

  • Wear and tear: Wear and tear on the knee can occur due to routine activities such as walking, bending, standing, and lifting. 
  • Sprain: An abrupt twist of the knee can result in a sprain or strain. Pain, swelling, and difficulty walking are common symptoms.
  • Torn cartilage: Menisci, the connective tissue that acts as shock absorbers, can be torn by a traumatic injury to the knee.
  • Tendonitis: Tendonitis occurs when a tendon swells (inflames) as a result of an injury to the connective tissue.
  • Osteoarthritis: Excessive stress on the joint due to frequent injury or being overweight can cause osteoarthritis.

Understanding the structure of the knee

The knee is made of up of the following components:

  • Tibia: Shinbone
  • Femur: Thigh bone
  • Patella: Kneecap
  • Cartilage: Absorbs shock and protects the knee
  • Tendons: Tough strands of tissue that connect muscles to bones
  • Ligaments: Flexible bands of tissue that connect bones to each other
  • Synovial fluid: Helps the knee function properly

When is knee surgery recommended?

Before surgery is considered, your doctor may suggest trying other treatment methods such as physical therapy, knee injections, oral medications, ointments, and supplements.

However if your knee pain is persistent or does not respond to medications, your doctor may suggest knee surgery to treat the issue. This 3-step checklist may help determine whether you would benefit from surgery:

  • Stiffness is severe enough that you cannot fully bend or extend your knee
  • You cannot sit down, squat, or bear your weight on your knee
  • You hear a pop when you twist or turn your knee

If you meet all three criteria, you may opt surgery after consulting with your doctor.


Exercises for Knee Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain See Slideshow

What are different types of surgery for knee pain?

Many knee surgeries involve arthroscopy, which is a keyhole surgical technique that can be used to diagnose and treat various knee issues. The surgeon puts an arthroscope (a probe with a small camera) into the knee joint and then makes a second incision to insert surgical instruments into the joint. Types of knee surgeries include:

  • Total knee replacement: Total knee replacement may be used in cases of severe knee injury, osteoarthritis, or another type of arthritis. This method is widely regarded as the gold standard for knee surgery because it is effective and safe. The surgeon removes some bone and cartilage from your shinbone and thigh bone where they connect to your knee joint and replaces them with implants. Results can last for over 15=-20 years.
  • Partial knee replacement: Partial knee replacement may be used in cases of minor injury or arthritis. It involves making a smaller incision and causes less bone loss. The recovery period for this surgery is also shorter than that of total knee replacement.
  • Kneecap surgery: Kneecap surgery can be performed using various techniques, including arthroscopy. In severe cases, however, open surgery may be required. Soft tissue and bone are excised, tightened, or moved in this procedure. Afterwards, a brace will be applied to protect your kneecap while it heals.
  • Meniscectomy: Meniscectomy is performed to repair a torn meniscus, which can cause knee pain and swelling but no movement limitations that indicate arthritis. A part of the torn meniscus is removed by arthroscopy. There will be no scarring, and recovery will be swift.
  • Meniscus repair or transplant: Removal of a torn meniscus may not be necessary if blood supply to the torn meniscus is adequate, in which case a meniscus repair is recommended. Meniscus transplant may be recommended for patients who have had a meniscectomy but now have additional knee pain. This arthroscopic technique replaces the injured or arthritic component of your meniscus with meniscus from a donor.

Other less common surgical techniques include:

  • Plica removal
  • Microfracture
  • Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

What are nonsurgical treatment options for knee pain?

Noninvasive treatment options have emerged in recent years, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment.

PRP has been used in operations to encourage cell regeneration, and a growing body of evidence suggests that it can be used to treat tendinosis. Experts have recently been investigating whether PRP injections are a viable treatment for osteoarthritis.

Since blood contains growth factors that can be found in platelets, injecting PRP growth factors from your blood into a damaged location is thought to aid in tissue regeneration by causing new cells to develop. PRP could thus aid in the repair of existing tissue damage.

There is no concrete evidence to confirm the efficacy of this treatment and it has yet to be completely standardized.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 3/16/2022
Image Source: iStock Images