The hustle and bustle of Quad City holidays has Davenport Interior Decorator, Jean Nelson, 70, grateful for knee pain therapy that keeps her on her feet, especially this time of year.
“My clients are focused on getting their homes ready for family and friends, and I’m just thankful to Santa for another year with my knee!”
Jean credits her ability to delay inevitable knee replacement with stem cell therapy and exercise. “Two years ago, I received two sets of stem cell shots and they really brought the pain level down.
“I walk almost every day and wear a knee brace, so I have been able to keep my knees in good shape. I realize, at some point, I will likely need a total knee replacement, but it’s important to keep my knee for as long as possible.”
Jean suffers from chronic knee pain and she is not alone. It’s estimated nearly one in 17 Americans visit physicians’ offices each year for knee pain or injuries from osteoarthritis, a progressive wear and tear of the joints, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).
The AAOS reports the odds of getting knee pain actually increase as the U.S. population continues to age or becomes overweight.
While Jean is physically active, her knee pain began when she tore her ACL while snow skiing.
“I have arthritis in my knee, all from the injury,” she says.
In the ensuing decades, Jean has undergone non-surgical knee therapy at ORA Orthopedics that has kept her pain to a manageable level.
“I love being active, and on the job, I’m up and down on ladders all the time. My goal is to manage the pain and keep my knee for as long as possible. I know eventually I may need a total knee replacement, but I’m just not ready.”
Jean’s now retired, Orthopedic Joint Surgeon, Dr. Charles Cassel, says ORA’s philosophy is to explore and employ conservative treatments before recommending total joint replacement surgery.
“We want our patients to keep their joints for as long as possible, and many can do so for years. There are a number of non-surgical options including anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, braces, or cortisone injections to manage flare-ups.”
In Jean’s case, over the past several years, she has undergone different therapies, including twice-weekly weight-bearing exercise, injections, and bracing — all which have kept her pain level low enough to enjoy work, travel, and playing with her grandchildren.
Dr. Cassel understands Jean’s hesitancy about undergoing a total knee replacement, as he has had the same surgery himself.
“I have a total knee, so as a physician and a patient, I’ve experienced both sides. The decision to have surgery is a big one.
“The younger you are, the better it is to wait and the less likely you’ll need a second revision later on. New knees can last 10 to 20 years or more, depending on a patient’s body and habits.”
How does one know if it’s time for a total knee replacement?
“I tell patients they’ll know. Most who are ready say their quality of life has deteriorated: they can’t sleep or do their favorite activities anymore. It’s a progression — the pain gets worse with every passing year. Their life basically shrinks.”
“I know I’m in knee limbo,” says Jean. “It’s a tradeoff. My pain level is around a 2 or 3, and I have had to modify some of my more high impact activities, but I’m not quite ready to have it replaced.”
Dr. Cassel says patients need not worry if it becomes time for total joint replacement surgery.
“Minimally invasive surgical techniques, as well as improved anesthesia and pain management, lead to faster recoveries. Also, for certain patients, we are now able to perform total knee replacements on an outpatient basis at our Crow Valley Surgery Center. Patients can be home the next day and return to their activities within 6 to 8 weeks.”