Knee Osteoarthritis Pain Relief without Surgery

Over the last 12 years as a physical therapist, I have heard hundreds of people say some version of -

“My knee hurts because I have arthritis and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

When I hear this I feel sad and excited at the same time. I’m sad because I know this is FALSE and that for every patient who tells me this, there are 10 others who never even come to physical therapy. I also feel excited because I know there’s a really good chance that I can help the person sitting in front of me to decrease their pain, decrease pain medications, return to the activities they love and avoid surgery.

Many people come to me with x-ray results that show signs of osteoarthritis. I don’t stress about that because I know that 50% of individuals with positive x-rays do not have symptoms. It is possible to have a bad looking x-ray but have no pain and have a working joint. I also know that the x-ray results do not in any way determine how the person will respond to physical therapy. It can be disappointing and hard to believe that our high tech imaging methods can’t give us more helpful information. But hopefully it’s also relieving to know that you are not defined or limited by your x-ray results.

“If my ugly x-ray is not causing my knee pain, then what is?”

One answer is thigh muscle (quadriceps) strength. Studies have shown that thigh muscle weakness is associated with knee pain regardless of x-ray findings. Having strong thigh muscles has even been shown to protect against having knee pain regardless of x-ray findings. In other words, you could have a terrible looking x-ray but have strong thighs and have no knee pain. Or you could also have a perfect x-ray but still have weak thigh muscles and knee pain.

“Can I really get relief from knee osteoarthritis (OA)?” The answer is “Yes!” Physical therapy has been proven to decrease pain, decrease medication use and allow people with knee OA to return to meaningful activities while avoiding or even preventing surgery.

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Physical Therapists (PTs) uses some of the following techniques to help people with knee OA:

Strength Exercise

  • PTs modify exercises to avoid increasing joint pain.
  • Exercise gradually builds over time to increase strength without aggravating pain.

Low-impact aerobic exercises and walking

  • PTs work with you to find the right type and amount of aerobic exercise to increase the health of your joint and your endurance for daily activities

“Hands On” Techniques or Manual Therapy

  • PTs use their hands to increase the mobility of joints and muscles and to decrease pain
  • These techniques are performed to the patient’s tolerance and should NOT be painful
  • This is many people’s favorite part of the treatment session!

Have been told that you have arthritis and there’s nothing you can do about it? I would really love for you to give Physical Therapy a try. At worst, you’ll gain some strength and knowledge. At best you could get rid of your pain, get back to doing the activities you love, and stay independent.

Call (828)675-6875 to set-up a FREE phone or in-person consultation. Visit our website to learn more about our practice

Group photo of senior friends exercising together
3D render of a medical image of close up of knee joint