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New Treatments for Knee Pain

US News & World Report - Health logo US News & World Report - Health 4 days ago David C. Flanigan, M.D.

© m-gucci/Getty Images As we age, we're more prone to experience joint pain, but knee aches and pains might be the result of a bigger culprit: osteoarthritis. As the most common chronic joint condition, about 31 million Americans are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis in their lives. This occurs when cartilage in the joint wears away, and it causes stiffness and swelling that worsens over time.

For decades, treatment options have been invasive, altering the joint through replacement, and these options sometimes required modified levels of activity. However, less invasive options designed to alleviate pain and allow patients to retain their level of activity are part of a new wave of devices that may address the severity of this condition.

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, my colleagues and I recently performed the first surgery in the U.S. to implant a device designed to relieve knee pain and prevent or delay knee replacements. The Calypso Knee System works like a shock absorber to take pressure off the inside of the knee while walking. Currently in clinical trials, we're looking at how the device can extend the life of a joint instead of opting for a knee replacement.

With more than 700,000 knee replacement surgeries performed in the U.S. every year, it's important that we also consider maintaining levels of activity after operation. Current treatment options for advancing osteoarthritis often involve invasive surgical procedures that permanently change the knee structure. While effective, removing bone or tissue can limit patients' future treatment options. If trials are successful, the Calypso Knee System could reverse that trend, helping more people avoid joint replacements and preserve their knees.

a man in a white shirt: Physical therapist stretching patient knee © (Getty Images) Physical therapist stretching patient knee Because most osteoarthritis patients are older adults, we hope that this treatment can act as a bridge toward total knee replacement, giving patients years, if not a couple of decades, before a total knee replacement is required. While the number of required total joint replacements are increasing in the United States year by year, we hope to limit that progression as much as possible and offer an alternative that preserves a healthy, active lifestyle.

Additionally, the Calypso Knee System hopes to get patients off crutches in about two weeks. The rehabilitation process can take anywhere from about three to six months to get back toward normal activity levels, but addressing knee pain early and opting for a less invasive surgery can help patients replicate activity levels before knee pain.

Though many patients don't know that they have osteoarthritis, it's important to seek help once you start developing symptoms and see if an intervention can hopefully delay the continued destruction of the knee joint. By taking some of the pressure off the knee joint and allowing the patient to have increased function, less pain and hopefully a delayed total knee replacement, we can begin work toward a future where knee pain is more easily addressed and managed.

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