The human knee handles an incredible workload – providing strength, stability, flexibility and mobility. With every step you take, your knees are tasked with bearing your weight and absorbing the shock of your feet striking the ground.
It’s not surprising that knees often give – or wear – out. In fact, knee pain is one of the most common orthopedic problems that adults face.
Knee pain is caused by a range of issues – acute injury to the ligaments, cartilage or bone; chronic overuse in activities such as sports, work or hobbies; the regular wear-and-tear of daily life; and several forms of arthritis. Knee pain isn’t selective — active people suffer knee pain and people with sedentary lifestyles do too.
“The knee is the largest and most complex joint in the body, and it works incredibly hard from the day we take our first steps,” says Dr. Javier Rios, Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine primary care sports medicine specialist. “Over time, that workload can take its toll.”
Rios says many people associate knee pain or injury with athletics, until they start to have problems.
“The majority of my patients are just regular folks,” he says. “They either have a chronic condition, like arthritis, that is causing them pain, or they have an undiagnosed injury like a damaged ligament or cartilage. They may not even be certain when that injury occurred. Many of these patients don’t want or need surgery, but they no longer want to live with daily pain and the loss of mobility that is impacting their lives.”
Rios says there are a number of nonsurgical treatments available today that can provide relief and help patients return to an active, healthy lifestyle. For example, Rios uses ultrasound-guided knee injections; lubricant injections for osteoarthritis; pain management techniques; and physical therapy to help his patients reduce or eliminate pain.
“Ignoring pain is never a good choice,” Rios says. “Chronic knee pain can eventually lead to a number of other health issues. People often become less active and that can cause them to gain weight or lose strength, which just exacerbates their knee problem. But we have had good success in helping patients better manage their pain without surgery and regain control of their lives. The best approach is to choose a physician who is knowledgeable and experienced in non-surgical options and work with that doctor to decide what is best for your situation.”