Is Knee Surgery Really Necessary?

Young physical therapist working on patient’s knee

Knee surgery is often hailed as the best treatment for chronic knee pain, but that’s not always the case. Non-surgical treatments can often provide the same level of pain and symptom relief as surgery. Reflex Knee Specialists is a knee clinic that provides non-surgical treatments for knee pain caused by a wide range of knee conditions and injuries. Here, we discuss knee surgery and the non-surgical treatment alternatives available at Reflex Knee Specialists, with facilities in Portland, OR, Bellevue, WA, and Tempe, AZ.


Knee Surgery Facts

Knee surgeries are commonly performed to help repair or remove parts of the knee that become damaged or cause pain. They are often recommended for patients with severe osteoarthritis pain or structural damage to the knee. There are two main categories of knee surgeries:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: This type of knee surgery repairs many different knee problems like torn meniscus or anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) using a method known as arthroscopic surgery.
  • Total Knee Replacement (TKR) surgery: This type of knee surgery removes the knee joint and replaces it with prosthetic parts, usually made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.

Many patients with chronic knee pain believe these are the only suitable treatment options to allow them to get back to living a pain-free life. Although these surgeries can be effective, they also involve higher costs, risks, and recovery times. A recent review of surgeries from The BMJ found that even when it is effective, surgery may not be significantly better than non-surgical treatments. The review also found that arthroscopic operations, although highly successful, produce little difference in pain and require further treatment to repair ACLs compared to non-surgical treatments.

Another common surgical procedure that usually isn’t required is an arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM), which is often recommended for individuals who have a torn meniscus.  During this procedure, there is no actual repair.  Instead, the damaged tissue is excised, which results in decreased cushioning between the femur and tibia, resulting in accelerated cartilage damage and increased risk of needing a total knee replacement.  Several high-quality studies have demonstrated that outcomes for a torn meniscus are the same for patients who are treated with physical therapy or surgery.

This is why our medical providers strongly recommend that patients should try conservative, non-surgical treatment options, like those offered at Reflex Knee Specialists, before considering surgical treatment for knee pain.


Treatment Alternatives to Knee Surgery

Although knee surgeries are common, they may not always be the best treatment for every patient and every case. Many knee conditions and injuries can heal with non-surgical treatment alternatives. However, patients are often unaware of this because some medical providers push surgery as the solution, with some even having financial incentives to recommend surgery. At Reflex Knee Specialists, we take a non-surgical approach to treating knee pain and its causes, offering and proposing a variety of alternatives:

Lifestyle Changes

If knee pain comes from conditions like bursitis or knee arthritis, it can often be worse in patients who are overweight because there is more weight straining on the knees. Medical providers often recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss and incorporating low-impact exercise to help relieve the strain on the knees. These changes can lead to a reduction in pain over time.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is another non-surgical treatment alternative for knee pain, especially in patients with osteoarthritis, tendinitis, and sports or traumatic injuries. It is often used before surgery to try to prevent the need but also after surgery to help strengthen muscles and improve range of motion.


Patients with minor to moderate knee pain are often told to take over-the-counter medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), to manage pain and reduce swelling. However, these medications aren’t suitable for all patients and can have side effects if taken for long periods, so patients should talk with their knee doctors about dosages and when to take them.

Injection Therapy

Patients with knee pain that has not improved with other conservative treatment options may be candidates for injection therapy. Injection therapy uses substances injected into the knee to provide pain relief and decrease inflammation inside the joint. This pain relief usually lasts for 6 months and can help patients get back to living without pain during that time. Some types of injection therapies include:

  • Joint fluid therapy: This type of knee therapy involves injecting hyaluronic acid into the knee joint to lubricate it and help relieve pain.
  • Platelet-rich plasma(PRP): This treatment injects a concentrated sample of the patient’s blood into the knee to help reduce inflammation and encourage healing.
  • Ozone joint therapy: This emerging therapy for osteoarthritis pain uses an injection of ozone gas in the knee to reduce inflammation and pain.

These injection therapies and other innovative, non-surgical treatments are available at Reflex Knee Specialists.

At Reflex Knee Specialists, our medical team believes that non-surgical treatments should always be tried before surgical ones. We also believe that invasive surgery should be performed only if those options fail to alleviate pain or improve the patient’s quality of life.


Request an Appointment With a Knee Specialist Today

Patients with knee pain can get back to living pain-free without knee surgery. At Reflex Knee Specialists, we understand that thousands of unnecessary knee surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year. Our team of knee specialists focuses on preventing as many of these unnecessary surgeries as possible by educating our patients about the non-surgical treatment options available for knee pain. Book an appointment with one of our knee specialists today at one of our locations in Portland, OR, Bellevue, WA, and Tempe, AZ. Call 503-719-6783 or contact us at Reflex Knee Specialists.

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