Is Surgery the Only Treatment for Knee Arthritis?

Dec 19, 2022
Is Surgery the Only Treatment for Knee Arthritis?
You have arthritis in your knees that’s slowing you down. Is surgery the only option to relieve your chronic pain? Learn about nonsurgical treatments for osteoarthritis of the knees.

If your knees hurt, you’re probably seeking pain relief. Knee pain is a leading cause of disability. If you have arthritis in your knee, it can be difficult to remain active or even walk. It may hurt simply to bend your knees. 

Ben Albert, MD, the board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Scottsdale Hip and Knee provides state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for his patients in Scottsdale, Arizona, experiencing pain in their knee and hip joints. 

At your consultation, Dr. Albert reviews your medical history, asks you to describe your symptoms, and performs tests to determine the severity of your knee arthritis. 

The good news is that surgery isn’t the only treatment for knee arthritis unless it’s advanced or the result of a traumatic accident. Based on your condition, Dr. Albert develops a personalized plan for your treatment. 

Common conservative treatments for this painful condition include:

Heat or ice 

If you’ve overused your arthritic knee — playing tennis, for example — it lets you know. Use a covered ice pack off and on for a day or so to calm inflammation. Once the inflammation has subsided, a warm compress can help loosen a stiff joint. 


If you work out regularly or play sports socially, a knee brace can help stabilize and support your knee. Dr. Albert can prescribe the right brace for you. 


Over-the-counter oral pain relievers, including acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), help relieve arthritis pain. NSAIDs also come in topical form. 

Dr. Albert can prescribe stronger NSAIDs, but he cautions these drugs aren’t for long-term use; they all have side effects. They mask your symptoms but don’t treat the underlying problem. 


If you’re in severe pain from knee osteoarthritis, Dr. Albert may administer a steroid injection. You should feel relief within 2-3 days that can last for weeks or months. 

Injections can provide relief if your pain has worsened to the point that you need a knee replacement. The number of injections you can receive is limited because they can cause damage to your joints. 

Physical therapy 

Physical therapy is a staple of treatment for knee osteoarthritis. Your physical therapist teaches you specific exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee to help support it. You also regain range of motion to improve your quality of life. 

Platelet-rich plasma

An expanding body of research indicates that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections show promising results for patients with knee arthritis. In a 2022 study, patients report less stiffness and pain within one month of treatment, with the best results at six months.

Weight loss and exercise 

You have an important role to play in caring for your knee osteoarthritis. Two-thirds of patients with osteoarthritis are obese. Being obese or significantly overweight puts extreme stress on your knees. 

The force on your knees when you walk is one and a half times your weight. If you weigh 200 pounds, you’re putting 300 pounds of pressure on your knees when you walk. Eventually, your knee joints start to break down. 

You can reduce pain by bringing your weight within a normal range, which also allows you to engage in more physical activities. 

Another lifestyle factor is the amount of exercise you get. Study after study shows that exercising regularly lessens pain and increases mobility for patients with osteoarthritis. 

Dr. Albert can recommend an exercise regimen for you. With any regimen, start slow and gradually increase the amount of exercise. 

The key is finding a physical activity you enjoy. A low-impact exercise such as swimming, cycling, or walking is excellent for your health and can help you take off pounds. 

Call Scottsdale Hip and Knee: Ben Albert, MD or book an appointment online today for your knee and hip concerns.