Most of us don’t make it through life without some sort of knee pain. This is scary, but according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, total knee replacement surgeries have tripled between 1993 and 2009. According to the source, many of the people that are opting for knee surgeries are much younger than in recent years as well.

Many sources believe that people are developing knee pain earlier and earlier because of an increase in obesity. However, genetics play an important role in determining if you’ll receive knee pain as well. Overall the cause of knee pain is due to wearing away the cartilage in your knee.

Right knee has knee painIf you look at the picture of the good and bad knee you’ll see that the knee on the left is a normal knee. There is a gap between the top and bottom bone. That gap, also known as joint space is where the cartilage lives. This person can run, jump, bend and walk without any pain because of a healthy amount of cartilage. This cartilage is acting like a shock absorber to the knee and the bones aren’t touching or rubbing. However, the picture on the right has almost no joint space. The x-ray results determined that this person mostly likely has a painful bone on bone condition. Most likely this person is experiencing arthritis pain and this person may have a bowed leg as a result of the cartilage degeneration.

Most people would automatically assume that surgery is imminent. Everyone knows someone who had knee surgery or knows of someone who has knee surgery. After all 1 out of 50 people currently have an artificial joint. Total knee replacement surgery is so common that people don’t even consider alternatives to surgery. There’s no mistaking that surgery can help people with knee pain. However, why wouldn’t you want to explore alternatives to knee pain before opting for invasive surgery? Take a quick look at 3 reasons why you may want to explore other options before you consider surgery.

You May Not Need Surgery For Your Knee Pain

Orthopedic doctors and surgeons may be some of the brightest people in the medical industry, but they’re just people like you and I. Mistakes happen. Sometimes an orthopedic will recommend a total knee replacement surgery when it’s unnecessary.

oops doctorA study in Finland followed 146 people who received knee surgery to treat typical wear and tear, arthritis type symptoms. Half of these people received arthroscopic meniscectomy while the other half received a fake surgery. One year later they asked all the patients about the surgery and nearly 2/3 of all the patients reported they were happy with the surgery while there was no significant improvement in knee pain reduction.

What this means is that doctors are accidentally recommending surgery for people that don’t need the treatment and to people who won’t experience long-term benefits from the treatment.

Knee Pain and Surgery are Temporary

It’s hard enough to believe that doctors are accidentally recommending surgery for their patients. However, the problem is that they’re recommending a treatment that isn’t a permanent solution.

Knee surgery requires painful surgery, lots of rest, rehabilitation etc. You would expect with such an extreme procedure, it would provide life long benefits. However, your prosthetic joint will only last 15-20 years before it wears out and you’ll need surgery AGAIN. If you are abusing your knees and you’re thinking about a knee replacement surgery in your early 50s you can expect to undergo revision surgery in your lifetime, assuming you want to live to be older than 65-70.

Revision Surgery is Complicated

Knee RevisionIs bad enough that you have to undergo surgery on your knees ever 15-20 years, but revision surgery may be more complicated than the initial surgery. According to,

“A revision procedure is typically more complex than the original knee replacement surgery because the surgeon must remove the original implant, which would have grown into the existing bone. In addition, once the surgeon removes the prosthesis, there is less bone remaining.”

This means that you most likely will experience complications after you receive revision surgery. If you don’t experience complications then you can at least expect another revision in 10 years.

Other Options

Your knees won’t fix themselves. Unfortunately, cartilage is like tires on your car. You may not be abusing your tires but with everyday use, you’ll begin to wear them down. However, there are other options besides surgery.

Stem cell therapy is a newer type of procedure to reverse the effects of worn cartilage. Stem cell therapy is an injection of stem cells into the affected area. Since stem cells are undifferentiated cells they have the ability to turn into cells that they come into contact with. When you inject stem cells into a knee with worn cartilage they will transform into the cells that make up your cartilage and begin to multiple and regrow. This procedure is completely ethical, and very effective to qualified candidates. However, in many situations people’s conditions are past the point of repair and surgery is imminent. Before you consider surgery you should consider stem cell therapy.



Samuel Greengard. (2012, April 30). What is Knee Replacement Revision Surgery? [Blog post].