Knee Osteoarthritis: Procedure brings comfort, resolves pain for even most surgery-averse patients

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Knee Osteoarthritis: Easing knee pain in surgery-averse patients
After years of avoiding knee replacement, a Juniata Park man is back at work pain-free with two new knees.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For millions of people, arthritis of the knees causes frequent pain and limits their lives.

Yet they're often afraid of joint replacement surgery.

A Philadelphia man says getting over his reservations put him back on the road again.

Lester Frisby of Juniata Park admits he was a crazy kid.

"We used to jump out of the second flood window onto mattresses," Frisby recalls.

And his knees paid the price.

"The body doesn't forget what you put it through," he notes.

Dr. Mark Desmond, a Temple Health orthopaedic surgeon, says osteoarthritis develops when cartilage - the cushion between the upper and lower leg bones - gets damaged over time.

"And sometimes it gets so worn, that there's none left, and there's only bone rubbing on bone, which can be very painful," Dr. Desmond says.

"My pain level was easy 7 to 10 every day," Frisby says.

Dr. Desmond says the first treatments for knee osteoarthritis try to make people comfortable with what they have.

Losing weight, over-the-counter medications, braces, and changing exercises can cut stress on the knees.

"Instead of running, consider cycling. If you can swim, swimming is great exercise. It's low-impact, no-impact. There are ellipticals and other knee-sparing exercises," says Dr. Desmond.

Physical therapy can help, too.

"To strengthen the muscles around the joint can really actually decrease some of the abnormal forces," he notes.

Injections are usually the next step: cortisone or other steroids first, later a gel lubricant that mimics the cushioning effect of cartilage.

Studies show three treatments of PRP, platelet-rich plasma, often ease pain.

When 30 years of knee injections stopped working, his doctor said knee replacement was the only option left.

"You can live the rest of your life always having trouble with your knees or you can live the rest of your 70s, 80s, and 90s pain-free," Frisby recalls his doctor saying.

Dr. Desmond eased Frisby's worries about surgery.

"He made me feel so good, that the first thing that came outta my mouth was - how soon can we do it?" he says with a broad smile

Hours after having both knees replaced last October, Frisby wasn't just up, he was walking around the hospital, finally free of that grinding pain.

"They had to slow me down," he laughs.

And he waves off reservations some have on getting two knees at once. "One surgery, one rehab."

Frisby is back to his job driving rideshare and delivering auto parts.

And boy, is he ready for spring!

"I can't wait to get on my motorcycle. I haven't been on it for 3 years," he says happily.

"The majority of people are very happy with their results," adds Dr. Desmond.

Dr. Desmond says acupuncture gave his mother three years of pain relief before she needed a joint replacement. So he encourages patients to check out all the avenues they can.