In a recent column reprinted with permission from The Herald-Leader, Dr. Karim Rasheed wrote about a nerve procedure that can be an alternative for total knee replacement.

Knee pain is a very unpleasant problem that many people deal with on a daily basis.

Health statistics in the United States indicate knee pain is responsible for about one third of all doctor’s visits for muscle and bone pain. The condition can affect young athletes as well as patients wishing to remain physically active well into their retirement years.

There are many causes and treatment options for knee pain, including a new, cutting-edge outpatient treatment — Genicular Nerve Ablation, an alternative to total knee replacement surgery.

Common causes for knee pain include meniscus tears, sprained ligaments, runner’s knee, tendonitis and osteoarthritis, a common condition that affects nearly 27 million Americans. Patients with issues such as these may experience pain when bending or straightening the knee, difficulty putting weight on the knee, and swelling.

Osteoarthritis is most common in those over the age of 50, and is a common form of arthritis that develops when the cartilage breaks down. When this happens, the surface of the bones become damaged, causing swelling, stiffness and pain. Chronic knee osteoarthritis affects about 20 to 30 percent of people over the age of 65.

Treatment for knee pain depends on the severity of the injury. For mild to moderate injuries, knee pain can be healed over time through rest, ice, compression and elevation of your knee, or taking anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, a total knee replacement may be required. However, many patients still experience persistent surgical pain one year after having a total knee replacement.

For those patients with knee pain caused by osteoarthritis who aren’t helped by conservative or surgical measures, genicular nerve ablation may prove to be an ideal treatment option. This new treatment is helping some patients with knee pain avoid a knee replacement, and even offers relief to those with knee pain after a knee replacement.

Genicular nerve ablation is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in about 30 minutes. The procedure, which is performed outside the knee capsule and under X-ray guidance, allows doctors to use a radiofrequency device to target particular areas in the knee supplied by genicular nerves, applying heat to those spots.

A needle is guided through the skin and to the target nerve, where a thin electrode is activated, heating up the nerve. The technology, called radiofrequency ablation, stuns the painful nerves in the knee and prevents signals from reaching the brain, providing relief from knee pain.

Unlike other procedures, there is no need for cortisone or steroid injections.

When patients are dealing with severe knee pain, some are hesitant to have a knee replacement, some are considered high-risk and others have already undergone the procedure. With genicular nerve ablation, patients are able to walk and move better, and have a new option for relief, without having to undergo knee replacement surgery.

Dr. Karim Rasheed is the medical director with KentuckyOne Health Pain Care.