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Knee Pain? Consider These Steps Before Resorting To Replacement Surgery

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If your knees hurt and you think you're headed for a knee replacement, there are ways to preserve your joints and hold off surgery.

The most common cause of knee pain is osteoarthritis, often called wear and tear arthritis. Years of activity or injury at work or play grinds down the smooth cartilage in the knees.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez says he grew up a catcher in baseball, playing tennis and squash, and riding a bicycle, but now he's paying the price.

A big part of what keeps his knees functional and mostly pain free over the years is frequent physical therapy at Corinthian Therapy, where Pam Schwarzer has taught him that strong muscles actually keep joints happy.

"Strengthening the knee, and also the hip musculature and the abdominal muscles, will give the knee more stability," she says. "It will decrease the forces on the knee and distribute them more throughout the body."

But alas, you can't keep Mother Nature and Father Time at bay forever.

Dr. Laith Jazrawi, co-director of the Joint Preservation Center at NYU Langone, explained that a healthy knee has a smooth, clear space filled with cartilage between the thigh and shin bones, as opposed to bone spurs.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take well before resorting to surgery. Dr. Max started out with cortisone shots in both knees to calm down inflammation. The next step was injections of hyaluronic acid, which is essentially synthetic lubricant for the knees.

Some patients might then go to what are called biologics.

"Platelet rich plasma as well as stem cell therapy, where we're giving patients their own bone marrow concentrated that have inherent healing properties," Jazrawi said. "By injecting that back into the knee, it creates this milieu of healing where pain can also be alleviated."

Even if you do end up needing a knee replacement, you will have delayed it so that the techniques may be better and you'll only need one to last the rest of your life.

Knee replacements are not medically necessary. They're for pain relief and for when that pain interferes with your daily activity.

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