Sports Medicine FAQ
- What are common causes of knee damage?
- Does Dr. Cunningham offer non-invasive treatment options?
- When is knee surgery recommended?
- What are the benefits of arthroscopic treatment?
- What is the typical recovery process following knee surgery?
1. What are common causes of knee damage?
While general wear-and-tear changes in a knee joint are commonly seen as we age, sport-related injuries in younger people are a frequent cause of knee damage. Such injuries are seen in both recreational and professional athletes, especially those participating in activities that involve jumping, squatting, and rotating, such as skiing.
Overuse and exhaustion may play a role in the knee's susceptibility to damage; however, any strong impact or unnatural motion can result in a tear, dislocation, or other injury type. Common forms of knee damage include:
- Cartilage tears
- Ligament tears
- Partial or total kneecap dislocation
- Runner's knee and other overuse tendonitis issues
Based on the type and severity of injury present, Dr. Cunningham will recommend an approach for treatment and rehabilitation.
2. Does Dr. Cunningham offer non-invasive treatment options?
Upon initial diagnosis of knee damage, Dr. Cunningham may recommend non-invasive treatment efforts in order to alleviate pain and minimize other symptoms present. He works closely with a group of very qualified physical therapists that he may refer you to. Hands on physical therapy can be very effective in restoring normal knee range of motion. In some cases, the damage will be too severe for the use of non-invasive treatments alone.
Frequently prescribed non-invasive treatment options include, but may not be limited to:
- Anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications
- Steroid or hyaluronic acid injections
- Platelet rich plasma injections
- Stem cell injections
- Bracing and/or other orthotics
- Use of crutches
- At-home exercise and/or formal physical therapy
- Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and laser therapy
The RICE approach of rest, ice, compression, and elevation is always recommended immediately after an acute injury in order to limit swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and pain. In many cases, these non-invasive measures may provide the relief necessary to avoid surgical intervention.
3. When is knee surgery recommended?
If a patient's knee damage is either initially too severe, or unresponsive to non-invasive efforts, surgery will likely be recommended in order to successfully treat the injury. Whenever possible, minimally invasive techniques will be utilized in order to reduce post-op pain and provide an expedited recovery.
Cartilage and ligament tears, as well as other dislocation-associated damage, often requires surgical correction. In many cases, arthroscopy will be used to both diagnose and treat the damage present. For more complex or progressive knee damage, open surgery may have to be used to correct the problem.
4. What are the benefits of arthroscopic treatment?
During an arthroscopic surgery, small incisions will be placed on the knee's surface. Through these cuts, a miniature camera and tools will be inserted for the viewing of the joint's interior. Live video images will be displayed on a high-resolution monitor in the operating room, allowing Dr. Cunningham to view and treat the damage present.
Due to the use of smaller incisions and less internal cutting, arthroscopy has the following benefits:
- Surgery on an outpatient basis
- Shorter recovery times
- Reduced post-op pain and discomfort
- Less scarring and thus better range of motion after surgery
- Faster return to normal activities
In order to achieve these benefits, it is important that Dr. Cunningham's prescribed approach for post-op rehabilitation be followed precisely.
5. What is the typical recovery process following knee surgery?
Immediately following knee surgery, it is important to rest and elevate the joint and keep it covered with the surgical dressing applied at surgery until instructed to remove the dressing and shower over the wounds. Dr. Cunningham believes in accelerated rehabilitation for most surgery. Thus, a patient can typically stand and walk immediately after surgery, although these activities are limited so that swelling is minimized. Some surgeries require the use of crutches and a knee brace for a certain period of time, depending on the surgery that was performed.
Anti-inflammatory and pain medications will likely be prescribed for use in combination with physical exercises. Initial therapy efforts will often focus on rebuilding flexibility and range of motion, which should be restored before making efforts to rebuild strength.
Prior to resuming any activity (basic or sports-related), please refer to your discharge instructions or ask Dr. Cunningham and HIS orthopaedic care team. While the risks associated with knee surgery are minimal, any concerns should be reported immediately.
To learn more about the sports medicine and knee treatments offered by Dr. Cunningham, contact his Edwards, CO office at (970) 569-3240, Frisco, CO office at (970) 569-3260, or Vail, CO office at (970) 476-7220.