Knee Pain: Arthritis Versus Injury and What it Means for Knee Replacement

Knee Pain: Arthritis Versus Injury and What it Means for Knee Replacement

If arthritis is preventing you from doing the activities you enjoy or simply turning ordinary tasks into painful ordeals, you might be a candidate for knee replacement surgery at Olympic Medical Center.

With the aches and pains that come with an aging knee, it can be difficult to determine if knee replacement surgery is the next best step in getting you back to doing activities pain free. Whether your pain is chronic or triggered by an event, you may be asking, “How do I know if the pain in my knee can be alleviated by a knee replacement?”

According to Olympic Medical Center orthopedic surgeons Dr. Dirk Gouge and Dr. Thomas Herschmiller, who each perform an average of five total joint replacements a week, the answer is usually clear:

Arthritis in the knee is what leads to a knee replacement

Dr. Dirk Gouge

“When the cartilage in the knee wears out, that’s what we call arthritis,” Dr. Gouge said. “It’s a progressive disorder that leads to bone-on-bone in the joint and that causes pain. That happens slowly over a long period of time. That causes pain with everything, from just getting around the house to trying to get out and do things like hike or play golf.”

Knee replacement surgery is appropriate for patients who are suffering from years of wear-and-tear, commonly known as arthritis, on their knee joint. On the other hand, patients who experience a single, traumatic injury to their knee, arthroscopic knee surgery is likely more appropriate.

Dr. Herschmiller points out that once a patient is out of knee replacement surgery, there’s still work to be done to get back to activity.

How arthritis wears out your knee

“As it becomes arthritic, people will often wear the inside or the outside [your knee joint]… your knee will become misaligned and the soft tissues tighten on the affected side as you get more deformity,” Dr. Herschmiller said. “When you restore your alignment with knee replacement surgery, your soft tissues at that point are unbalanced, and you have to release the tight soft tissues to rebalance the knee so that afterwards, people feel that they have a more normal, functioning knee.”

Dr. Thomas Herschmiller

Dr. Gouge, who has more than 20 years of knee replacement surgery experience, cautions potential knee surgery candidates that a consultation with a knee replacement surgeon is the first step in a journey to a healthy knee.

“As an orthopedic surgeon, it is my goal to develop a treatment plan that is right and appropriate for each patient,” Dr. Gouge says. “For some patients, that may mean a knee replacement. For others, there may be other methods of reducing pain in an arthritic knee.”

Before progressing to knee replacement surgery – also known as arthroplasty surgery – orthopedic surgeons may recommend other remedies such as physical therapy, dietary changes, exercise and pain management. But if those methods don’t resolve the pain in your arthritic knee, it is likely time for knee replacement surgery.

“The criteria for knee replacement surgery is pain every day, loss of function, unable to do what you want to do with your life and you failed other levels of management,” Dr. Herschmiller adds.

Arthritis Leads Local Coach to Knee Replacement

After trying to manage severe arthritis for several years, Port Angeles area baseball and softball coach and avid outdoorsman Jim Cheney, certainly met those criteria.

 “I couldn’t keep up with my yard work or even stand up for more than 25 minutes,” Cheney said.

 That led Cheney to Dr. Gouge at Olympic Medical Center, where he underwent knee replacement surgery in June of 2020.

Robotic-assisted surgery: Less pain, better outcomes

With robotic-assisted knee replacement surgery at Olympic Medical Center, Dr. Gouge and Dr. Herschmiller harness minimally-invasive techniques and the exacting precision of robotics to arrive at better outcomes for patients – a knee joint that feels natural and allows them to return to their everyday activities with less pain.

The CORI System from Smith + Nephew is the next level tool for patients who want to experience less pain during recovery and have better results; meaning they get back to enjoying their activities sooner.

“I have patients that want to get back to playing golf and hiking and snow skiing and waterskiing and playing tennis…pickleball is huge around here,” Dr. Gouge said. “That’s why they do this [knee replacement] so that they can get back to those things that they want to do every day that they’ve had to stop doing because their knee hurts too much.”

If you are interested in learning more about knee replacement surgery at Olympic Medical Center, the first step is to see your primary care provider, who may refer you for an evaluation with one of our orthopedic providers. To get started, call your primary care provider; patients of Olympic Medical Physicians can call (360) 565-0999.