There are few health conditions more disruptive than knee pain. Whether due to osteoarthritis, a ligament tear or runner’s knee, this kind of pain makes itself known every step you take. Millions of Americans suffer daily from this condition which is why so many are eager to learn about the latest knee pain therapies including surgical procedures and stem cell therapy.
Knee pain is one of the most common reasons Americans see doctors. Among the 100 million Americans struggling with chronic pain conditions, knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain. Almost one-third of all Americans will encounter knee pain at some point in their lives. This health condition afflicts between 15 and 20 percent of all males, but it is more prevalent among females.
Anatomy of the Knee
As the largest and one of the most complicated joints of the human body, the knee serves many important roles including
- Provides up to 150 degrees of mobility
- Allows freedom to move the lower leg in walking or running
- Stabilizes lower and upper leg for locomotion and standing
- Cushions the impact while moving
- Critical bending function in jumping
The human knee is a synovial joint that allows hinge-like motion, although some rotational movement is also permitted. There are four bones that meet at the knee: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (larger shin bone), fibula (smaller lower leg bone) and patella (kneecap). The knee is actually composed of two distinct joints. The first is between he femur and tibia, while the second involves the femur and patella. The fibula and tibia join just below the main joints.
There are four ligaments found in the knee joint that help stabilize it.
- The anterior cruciate ligament limits the femur from sliding back on the tibia.
- The posterior cruciate ligament prevents the femur from sliding forward on the tibia.
- The medial and lateral collateral ligaments prevent lateral motion of the femur.
Knee Pain Conditions
In addition to the bones and ligaments are pieces of cartilage called menisci that cushion impacts between the femur and tibia. There are also several fluid-filled sacs called bursae that lubricate the joint and allow smooth motion.
There are many injuries and illnesses that may cause pain in the knee, but here are some of more common conditions:
Ongoing knee pain can not only prevent you from enjoying running, skiing or playing golf, but can be a debilitating condition. That is why almost 600,000 Americans undergo knee replacement procedures every year. That is a drastic solution to knee pain issues, but there are many other kinds of surgical treatment options.
- Osteoarthritis—this is the most common form of arthritis and involves the erosion of cartilage in joints. Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knees include pain, stiffness and swelling.
- Meniscal tear—if you damage the menisci in your knee, you may experience pain or your knee may lock up.
- ACL injury—a strain or tear of your anterior cruciate ligament can greatly destabilize your knee. This condition may require surgery to repair.
- Patellar tendonitis—pain may be caused by inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin. This condition is most commonly found among athletes that engage in jumping excessively.
- Gout—this form of arthritis occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in the knees. Symptoms include intense pain and swelling.
Current Knee Pain Treatments
Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
- Meniscectomy—this surgical procedure removes part of the meniscus cartilage that has been damaged or torn.
- Meniscus repair—instead of cutting away any damaged part of the meniscus, this procedure attempts to restore the cartilage to a healthy condition. This is a more intricate surgery and requires a longer period of recovery.
- ACL reconstruction—surgery is a common option to repair the anterior cruciate ligament, a major stabilizing ligament. There are many variations of this surgery including arthroscopic procedures and replacement with transplanted tissue.
- Microfracture—if the cartilage in the knee is damaged, a surgeon may use a microfracture procedure to repair. This involves making minute holes in the underlying bone which induces new cartilage growth. Outcomes may vary due to randomness in new tissue growth.
- Patellar tendon repair—people with damage to their patellar tendon may experience an inability to fully extend their leg. This requires a surgical procedure to restore the tendon.
Many patients are eager to take advantage of the latest advances in stem cell therapy to treat their knee pain condition, but this treatment option is not fully mature. Stem cell therapy holds enormous promise for many health conditions, including knee pain issues, but currently, the FDA has only approved its use in blood cancer.
Stem cell therapy involves the use of fetal or adult stem cells—immature cells that have not yet differentiated into fully developed and function tissue—to replace damaged tissue like bone or cartilage. There are doctors who use stem cell therapy to treat joint problems by harvesting stem cells from the patient’s blood, bone marrow or fatty tissue for injection. Doctors who have used stem cell therapy to treat knee pain attest that pain diminishes in many cases. Furthermore, x-ray images confirm that cartilage growth does occur. Unfortunately, medical researchers are unsure how the presence of stem cells actually produces these results.
It is also important to note that there are some serious risks associated with stem cell therapy. In some cases, stem cells may grow uncontrollably and result in cancer. This unpredictable cell growth has also caused blindness or paralysis in some cases.
Knee pain cases, generally, are less prone to these serious side effects. The most common side effects include joint stiffness and swelling at the injection site. Although relatively safe for orthopedic issues, it is important to thoroughly discuss the procedure with the presiding physician. Ask where the stem cells will come from, what are the risks involved, how much the procedure will cost, and how long the effects will likely last.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees. The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship. Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.