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Dear doctor, I've been suffering from knee pain for years. Is it time to consider surgery?

20 February 2018

Q: During the last few years I have been suffering from very painful knees. I’m a plumber and spend countless hours kneeling on hard surfaces. I wear kneepads but the pain is still getting worse. Is it time to consider knee surgery?

A: Firstly, I would like to start by congratulating you on the use of knee pads as these are certainly beneficial for your trade. 

The nature of your job as a plumber causes significant strain on your knee joint, in particular the patellofemoral joint which is the compartment where your kneecap glides over the thigh bone.  Symptoms usually associated with this part of the knee include; crepitus (a grating sensation), swelling, pain when standing from a sitting position, pain when using stairs, ladders and kneeling. It is important that you see a specialist who can establish an accurate diagnosis by examining your knee and the use of an MRI scan.

There are various treatment options for knee pain, involving the kneecap in particular which include; physiotherapy, injection therapy (steroid/lubricant) or arthroscopy (keyhole surgery). The decision for what treatment option should be implemented is based on symptoms and your diagnostic imaging. It is essential that you seek the right form of advice and the appropriate specialist in order for you to obtain a correct treatment strategy and get back to a pain free working life.

Tips to help you prevent knee pain:

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level to avoid additional stress on your joints
  • Exercise – it reduces weight and keeps specific muscle groups in tone which help offload your knee
  • A healthy diet will keep your weight at an optimal level and allow the correct nutrition to support your knee
  • Orthotics! Carpenters, builders and plumbers are all required to wear knee pads to support the joints
  • Wear fitted shoes/boots to work. The force transmitted through the knee joint is linked with the posture and alignment of the foot and ankle
  • Early diagnosis: if you experience consistent knee pain for two to four weeks you should see an orthopaedic specialist to prevent more serious damage

Mr Andrew Cossey is a Consultant Orthopaedic Knee Surgeon practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital. 

Find out more about our tailored 'back to work' knee package. 

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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