Alternatives to Knee Replacement

Greg Evans February 11th, 2015

Most doctors would agree that knee replacement surgery should be considered a last resort. The combination of high expenses, hospital time, possible complications, follow up appointments, and post-surgery care make seeking out alternative solutions to knee pain worth the time and effort.


The number of alternatives to getting your knees replaced is actually overwhelming – which means both good and bad news for you. The good news is that you have plenty of other options to consider; the bad news is, well, that you have plenty of options to consider.

We know how overwhelming it can be to decide how to remedy your knee pain. The best treatment for you will depend on your age, cause of pain, and overall health. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common alternatives to knee replacement surgery along with some of the basic information you should know about them:

Physical Therapy

A recent study conducted by Harvard showed that doing the right physical therapy may be “just as good as surgery”. As you strengthen the muscles in your leg, your level of discomfort may significantly decrease to the point that surgery is no longer necessary. Physical therapy can be personalized to a treatment that works best for you – whether it’s doing a strengthening exercise with a personal trainer or taking a trip to the pool.

Cortisone Injection

Cortisone, or corticosteroids, is an anti-inflammatory medication that can offer fast relief for more acute knee pain. This is a more powerful option for knee pain, but also carries its own set of risks. Cortisone injections can elevate blood sugar and possibly weaken tendons around the site of injection. Other less common but long-term symptoms include easy bruising, weight gain, and elevation of blood pressure.

Knee Osteotomy

Knee Osteotomy is a common procedure used when there is a specific problem area, as opposed to your entire knee. A wedge of bone is removed from the healthy side of a knee in order to relieve stress and pressure from the damaged portion. This procedure is typically used on younger patients to extend the life of their knees, delaying the need for knee replacement surgery for up to 10 years.

Pain Medication

There are two main categories of drugs available to help with knee pain relief: anti-inflammatories and pain relievers. Consult with your doctor to decide which medication best fits your specific condition. Medications provide short-term relief, but many find that its risks outweigh those involved with surgery. Keep in mind that any medication purchased “over-the-counter” is sold in larger, more powerful doses. As relieving as the drug may be, overdoing it can do damage internal organs.

Hyaluronic Acid Injection

Hyaluronan is a thick, naturally-occurring fluid that acts as a lubricant to your joints. This liquid’s consistency thins out in someone who suffers from osteoarthritis. So, simply put, a hyaluronic acid injection is a procedure to try and remedy this problem. The FDA has approved this treatment only for osteoarthritis sufferers, and the effectiveness has received mixed reviews, but many claim that the injection provided at least short-term relief for their knee pain.


This is another injection-based treatment with shots given 15-20 times monthly for three to four months. Prolotherapy involves injecting a dextrose solution into damaged tissue in order to provoke a regenerative tissue response. This form of treatment has been in use for over 75 years, but similar to many other knee pain treatments, the level of effectiveness varies.


The concept behind electrotherapy is that of suppressing interleukin-1, the small proteins responsible for regulating immune and inflammatory responses in the brain. This occurs by sending electrical impulses to the knee muscle, transferring them through the spinal cord, and ultimately reaching the brain. The main benefit of electrotherapy is that the treatment does more than act as a band aid – it’s non-invasive and non-addictive and provides long-term relief.

The best plan of action when deciding what option will be the best fit for your circumstances is to consult with your doctor and some of your own personal research. Many knee replacement surgeries happen unnecessarily, so don’t be afraid to educate yourself and scope out all of your options.

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