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Minor aches and pains can be a normal part of aging, but how do you know when chronic knee pain is something more serious?

If you have ongoing knee pain, you have probably tried at-home treatments to relieve it. From over-the-counter medication to ice to diet changes, knee pain can be managed through alternative therapies for some. However, if you’re dealing with any of the issues below, it could be time to speak with your primary care provider about a total knee replacement surgery at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH).

1. You Have Chronic Knee Pain 

When you start to feel pain in your knees every day, it may be time for a knee replacement. The most common condition that leads to the need for a total knee replacement is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in your joints begins to wear away and the bones in your knee rub directly against each other as you move. As the cartilage in your knee(s) wears away, you will likely experience pain and stiffness. 

In addition to chronic pain, you may also experience swelling, inflammation and stiffness in your knee(s). This may be apparent while you are active, resting or trying to sleep. While knee pain becomes more frequent, it will also become more intense over time, which is a sign that it’s time to consult with your primary care provider or an orthopedic surgeon about the possibility of knee replacement surgery. 

2. Your Knee Pain Affects Your Quality of Life

Chronic knee pain doesn’t just affect your knees – it can affect your hobbies, your lifestyle and even your mental and emotional health. For many, this means their knee pain is preventing them from doing the daily activities they love, such as walking or running, golfing, dancing or playing with grandchildren. In some cases, it may impact your ability to care for yourself, such as making it harder to get in and out of the shower or get up from the couch. For some, it may even make it hard to get out of bed in the morning or make you feel as if you need to stay seated as much as possible.

When a physical condition, such as chronic knee pain, begins to affect your lifestyle, you may also find that it affects your mood. This may cause you to become depressed, anxious or easily agitated with friends and loved ones. Fortunately, a knee replacement will allow you to do the things you love and reclaim the quality of life that you expect and enjoy.

3. Medication and Other Treatments No Longer Help with Pain

At first, knee pain, swelling and inflammation are often relieved by over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). Many who experience knee pain also find relief from the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation), physical therapy or modifying their diet to lose weight. However, you’ll often find that the effects of medication, ice packs and therapy diminish over time as your knee pain becomes more frequent and intense.

While over-the-counter medications can help to manage mild pain and provide short-term relief, they do not treat the underlying causes of knee pain. Additionally, you should not take over-the-counter pain medication for long periods of time without consulting with your doctor. When you’re experiencing chronic or worsening knee pain despite your best relief efforts, it may be time to speak with your primary care provider.

4. You Experience Mobility and Instability Issues

Many in need of a knee replacement experience mobility and instability issues. This could mean having difficulty maneuvering throughout your home or being at risk for a fall.

Falls can lead to more severe injuries beyond the pain in your knees, such as broken bones and head injuries. One out of five falls causes serious injury, and more than 3 million seniors are treated in emergency departments every year because of falls. Additionally, falling once doubles your chances of falling again, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Difficulty with walking and balance are a contributing factor to an increased likelihood of falling.

If you find that you’re having trouble with your mobility or feel that you’re at risk of falling due to pain and stiffness in your knee, you should speak with your primary care provider right away. In this case, a knee replacement could save your life or prevent more severe injuries and complications.

Knee Replacement Surgery at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Whether it’s time for knee replacement surgery should be a decision you make with your doctor. If your knee pain is unbearable, affecting your quality of life or limiting your mobility, you should speak with your primary care provider as soon as possible.

We often hear that many people are afraid of knee replacement surgery – they think it’s going to further limit their mobility, decrease their quality of life or keep them in the hospital for a long period of time. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, most total knee replacement patients go home the same day, and nearly all are discharged by 11 am the day following their surgery. The need for longer inpatient stays or inpatient rehabilitation is rare. Following a total knee replacement surgery and recovery at home, our patients find that they’re able to get back to enjoying the quality of life they expect relatively quickly.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is home to the region’s most advanced orthopedic surgery program. Our orthopedic team provides comprehensive treatment, including the use of leading robot-assisted technology to enhance outcomes of knee replacement surgery. To learn more about orthopedic services at TMH, visit TMH.ORG/Ortho.

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Amy Allen, RN

Orthopedics Nurse Navigator