Prevention noted as key to knee health

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

According to medical professionals in Portales knee problems are among the most painful and debilitating ailments one can suffer. Knee surgery or special braces aren’t always the best solution.

Just because someone may have a knee injury, doesn’t necessarily mean that person will need surgery. Joel Sievers, M.D. with Eastern Medical Associates in Portales, and Shirlee Seaton, a physical therapist with Therapy Services Association of Portales, urge patients to take care of their knees by maintaining a healthy weight, stretching and exercising so they don’t have to resort to surgery.

“The most common overuse injuries are patello-femoral syndrome (runner’s knee), IT (Iliotibial) band syndrome and jumper’s knee,” Sievers said. “The most common traumatic injuries include contusions, ligament sprains or tears (MCL, ACL) and cartilage tears.”

However, injuries and arthritis can be avoided if people take the necessary precautions.

“The primary idea would be to prevent problems in the first place,” Sievers said. “Keep a proper body weight, maintain flexibility and strength of the muscles around the knees. Improve running mechanics. Have a smart training regimen: Allow some recovery time, cross train, vary speeds and distances and type of surface. Use good shoes, and replace (them) regularly.”

If it does get to the point that someone is suffering from runner’s knee or arthritis there are some measures people can take before the problems become more severe. Seaton, a physical therapist, said she receives patients after they have been referred to her by a doctor.

“Doctors send patients to us for rehab to try to prevent surgery,” Seaton said. “We also get some patients who have had knee surgery. A physical therapist helps patients regain their range of motion and strength with exercises, education and ultrasounds.”

Seaton said the key for people is to receive education on what causes knee pains and injuries and how to avoid them.

Sievers and Seaton said rehabilitation is different for each patient depending on their injuries and ages. Pain in a person’s knee doesn’t necessarily mean they need a knee brace.

“Not everyone with knee pain needs a brace,” Sievers said. “Many knee sprains or alignment problems can be improved with a brace. You need to see a sports medicine or orthopedic specialist, an athletic trainer, or a physical therapist to determine if a knee brace is needed, and if so which type of brace.”

Sievers said most injuries he sees can be treated with a rehabilitation program — either at home, at school with an athletic trainer, or with a therapist.

Stretching is a vital part of rehabilitating and avoiding severe knee injuries.

Dr. Bruce Owens said stretching has been a major part of his road to recovery from knee surgery. Owens said he had surgery seven weeks ago to replace the inside portion of his left knee.

“I’ve had to do a lot more stretching than I did before the surgery,” Owens said. “Stretching of the hamstring and quadriceps and working on the elliptical.”

Owens said he fractured his left knee because of a health condition he has had since birth which causes deterioration of cartilage.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Owens said about immediately after the surgery. “The loss of mobility, having to walk with crutches and it was very painful.”

Owens said with the help of his rehabilitation he’s been able to walk pain-free.

Seaton said she shows patients exercises they can do at home. Seaton said typically when a person first comes in they go through a one-hour evaluation then they begin one-hour rehab sessions two or three times a week.

For example, Seaton said for a 65-year-old who has had total knee-replacement she will work with the patient to gain range of motion and exercises to promote better walking.
Seaton said the goal of a physical therapist in cases of knee pain and injuries is to regain the maximum function of the knee.