Before deciding on knee replacement, your physician may try several nonsurgical, conservative measures to relieve the pain and inflammation in your knee.

Lifestyle Modification

The first alternative to hip replacement involves such lifestyle modification measures as weight loss, avoiding activities involving long periods of standing or walking, and the use of a cane to decrease the stress on the painful knee.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Exercise and physical therapy may be prescribed to improve the strength and flexibility of your knee. Your exercise program may include riding a stationary bike, light weight training, and flexibility exercises. An aquatic therapy program is especially effective for the treatment of arthritis, since it allows mild resistance while removing weight-bearing stresses. For an appropriate exercise program, contact an experienced physical therapist.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Arthritis pain is primarily caused by inflammation in the knee joint. Reducing the inflammation of the tissue in the knee can provide temporary relief from pain and may delay surgery.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to decrease the inflammation associated with arthritis. A new classification of NSAIDs, called COX-2 inhibitors, are often very effective in decreasing pain.

In a small number of cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, if NSAIDs are not effective. However, due to the higher rate of side effects associated with corticosteroids, a physician must closely monitor their use.


Two dietary supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin (commonly available in a combined tablet), may decrease the symptoms of knee arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are both naturally occurring molecules, and issues associated with both remain under active research. However, it appears that many people taking these nutrition supplements on a regular basis note a decrease in their arthritis symptoms.

There exist a number of nonsurgical alternatives to total knee replacement surgery. Such measures as lifestyle modification, exercise and physical therapy, and medication should be implemented before deciding on surgery. If all of these measures have been exhausted and your orthopedist recommends surgical intervention, total knee arthroplasty can be very successful in decreasing pain and greatly improving function.