Why is my knee so sore and what can I do about it?
If you’re suffering from knee pain, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the knee handles more stress than almost any other joint in your body. This crucial joint must carry most of your body weight with every step. As well, it twists and bends so you can sit, stand, walk up stairs, get in and out of your car and maybe even play golf, tennis or squash.
But with that versatility, comes a host of problems. If you’re facing knee pain it may be for any of the following reasons:
- Injury: You may have a recent injury – perhaps a car accident or a fall. Or you may suffer from degeneration, the result of an injury many years ago. For example it’s common for soccer, football players, skiers or other young athletes to injure themselves in their teens or 20s, and not feel the true consequences until many years later.
- Disease: The main disease affecting the knee is arthritis. This disease often runs in families and can be made worse by injury or obesity. Nobody knows why some people get severe arthritis, while others don’t. Nobody knows why one knee in the same person gets arthritis, while the other does not. Arthritis may result in pain, swelling, stiffness or a feeling of looseness.
- Ageing. The surface of the knee is made up mainly of collagen, the primary protein building block of all animal tissues. Collagen is constantly being broken down and produced in the body. But as we age, the collagen tends to stiffen and become more brittle. Thus, it becomes damaged much more easily.
Any of these problems may lead your doctor to suggest X-rays, meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, and, possibly, surgery.
What is arthroscopy and is it for me?
An arthroscope is a special camera used to examine the inside of the body. It can be as thin as the diameter of a drinking straw or pencil – and can be inserted into your joint by a small incision. In some cases, this can be done on an outpatient basis, meaning less time in hospital and a faster recovery. Today, arthroscopy is one of the most common orthopedic procedures in North America.
Here is a list of the common treatments using knee arthroscopy:
- Removal or repair of torn meniscal cartilage
- Reconstruction of a torn cruciate ligament (i.e. the ‘ACL’ – anterior cruciate ligament
- Trimming of torn pieces of articular cartilage.
- Removal of loose fragments of bone or cartilage.
- Removal of inflamed synovial tissue.
I’ve been told I need surgery; why do I have to wait so long?
Sometimes doctors will urge you to postpone surgery for as long as you can, because the benefits of the surgery may last for only 10 to 15 years and then need to be repeated.
But if you are already in serious pain, the bigger issue is likely the waiting list typical in most Canadian provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Hospital bed shortages and limited operating room times have left physicians and their patients equally frustrated. This is where Timely Medical Alternatives can help expedite your case in a private clinic or hospital so you can get the surgery you need, with no wait.
What if I need a knee replacement?
Depending on your medical history, or following a diagnostic arthroscopy, your doctor may recommend arthroplasty. This is a full or partial replacement of the knee joint with an artificial prosthesis made of plastic or metal. Because it requires “open surgery” (not done with a scope), and a longer hospital stay, the typical wait period required by the Canadian public health care system may be longer than you’re prepared to tolerate.
Again, this is where Timely Medical Alternatives has access to fully trained and certified orthopedic surgeons, can help expedite your treatment in a private clinic. The average knee implant restores about 100 degrees of movement (compared to a normal knee, which has about 130 to 140 degrees of movement).
How long will my recovery take and what will happen?
Recovery time after surgery will vary, depending on what the surgeon does. Simple procedures such as removing torn cartilage via arthroscopy can have a recovery time of as little as two weeks. More complicated procedures, such as repairing damaged structures or replacing the knee (arthroplasty) can require four to six months of recovery.
In any event, your orthopedic surgeon will prescribe pain medication for immediately following your surgery and probably suggest you keep your leg elevated and iced as much as possible for the first few days, to reduce swelling. You’ll also need to keep your dressing clean and dry. As well, you may be advised to begin by using crutches or a cane for getting around. Your surgeon can give you an estimate of anticipated recovery time at the time of your consultation.
Doing exercises or taking physiotherapy will be very important after surgery so you can regain as much motion and strength as possible.
We would love to help. Contact us directly for estimated costs of the range of medical procedures we are able to access.