Pain in the Knee

Alternatives to surgery for treating joint pain from arthritis

A portable, compact transducer in development at Cornell University would enable patients to receive ultrasound treatments for joint pain at their own convenience. Delivered a little at a time for a long time, ultrasound stimulates a swollen, inflamed joint mechanically and thermally, creating a permeable tissue environment conducive to healing.

Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

Even if you still have a spring in your step, chances are fifty-fifty that you have, or will have, “some evi­dence of osteoarthritis of the knee,” according to Mark R. Cutkosky, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University. He is part of a research program, known as Movement Re­training, which focuses on alleviat­ing pain by analyzing and possibly changing a person’s stride. One of the major problems at the root of knee pain is uneven wear and tear on the knee cartilage, which leads to arthritis. “We’re trying to slow the rate at which arthritis progresses,” says Cutkosky. But, he cautions, do not try changing your stride on your own: you could do more harm than good. The program is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and covered in a special report in NSF’s Science Nation,

With the guidance of a Feldenkrais Method teacher, you could safely change not only your stride, but how you habitually organize and move your whole self—since the knees are dynamically connected to, among other things, the ankles, pelvis, ribs, breath, and eyes. Devised by a scientist determined to defy the medical verdict that only surgery could relieve his knee pain, the neurologically informed method uses gentle movement and attention to unlock the brain’s power to learn a better way. Learn more at, or locate a teacher at

Exercise in general is crucial for people with arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, lack of exercise can make your joints even more painful and stiff, “because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones” (see

Another alternative for treating joint pain from arthritis is ultra­sound therapy, as reported in another article from NSF’s Science Nation, Current ultra­sound devices are bulky and expen­sive, however, requiring the patient to visit a doctor’s office. But that may soon change. George K. Lewis, a biomedical engineering graduate student at Cornell University, and his colleagues have created a minia­turized device, called a transducer, that patients could use at their own convenience. Under doctor’s instruc­tions, patients could apply the device themselves and receive pain relief for several hours. The transducer is now entering clinical trials at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

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