Chronic pain after knee surgery is a unique affliction that many men and women are unsure how to address. While the reason for inexplicable pain in the knees may be due to issues with the bones and joints, it’s also possible that sensations of burning, tingling, hypersensitivity, or a “pins and needles” feeling are caused by nerve-related complications. At Gryskiewicz Twin Cities Cosmetic Surgery, our experienced peripheral nerve surgeon has helped many patients reduce the debilitating symptoms that arise after knee surgery and get back to their lives unburdened by chronic pain. If you’ve been contending with pain for over six months after your knee surgery, Dr. Karan Chopra can provide personalized solutions to determine and treat the root cause of your painful symptoms.
What is Nerve-Related Knee Pain?
Nerve-related, or “neuropathic,” pain typically results from circumstances in which the nerves are damaged, compressed, or otherwise unable to function normally. This differs from orthopedic pain, which is caused by conditions in the musculoskeletal system. While knee pain is frequently the result of biomechanical issues in the knees—such as problems concerning the bones, cartilage, connective tissue, etc.—chronic pain that does not improve with medications and physical therapy is likely to be caused by damage to the peripheral nerves. Due to the nervous system’s complex network of nerves, an impaired nerve in one region of the body may cause pain in areas that are nowhere near where the damage was sustained.
“Chronic Nerve Pain Following Knee Surgery” Pamplet
Why Do People Feel Nerve Pain After Knee Surgery?
If you have recently undergone a knee procedure, feelings of pain during the initial healing process are relatively common and not necessarily a cause for concern; however, pain that still lingers six months after an operation is considered “chronic” and may warrant medical attention. Whether an initial knee surgery was performed to correct an injury, an arthritic joint, or abnormalities surrounding the structure of the knee, lasting pain after a procedure can be caused by:
- Damage to the nerve branches during surgery
- Nerves becoming entrapped in scar tissue during the healing period
It’s also possible for nerve injury or entrapment to culminate after experiencing other types of events in the lower extremities, such as an ankle sprain, cyst removal, bunion surgery, or a hip replacement procedure.
Symptoms of Neuropathic Knee Pain
Knee pain that is nerve-related usually causes a unique set of symptoms, which may include:
- Numbness, tingling, or a loss of sensation
- Sharp-shooting pains in the knees or lower extremities
- A burning sensation
- Hypersensitivity from contact with light materials (bedsheets, clothing, etc.)
- Pain in the area surrounding the scar
- Difficulty/pain while walking, or “foot drop”
- Loss of muscle mass
In some cases, injured or entrapped nerves may not manifest as pain, but rather in the form of irregular motor function. An example of this dysfunction is known as “foot drop,” which occurs when the front of the foot feels too heavy to hold up, potentially leading to toe drag or a high-stepping gait. Foot drop can be a strong indication that you have a peripheral nerve injury.
How is Neuropathic Knee Pain Treated?
Dr. Chopra can evaluate whether your chronic pain is nerve-related with techniques that may include a physical examination, a review of your medical history, diagnostic imaging, nerve blocks, as well as MRN, ERG, or sensory testing. While conservative solutions like physical therapy and/or medications will always be the first course of treatment, nerve surgery may be necessary for patients who:
- Still experience pain or dysfunction six months after their initial procedure
- Show evidence of severe nerve damage, which is revealed through diagnostic imaging
- Experience dysfunctions in movement, despite physical therapy
There are a number of surgical options that may be well-suited to address your post-surgical knee pain, and the best procedure for you will depend on the suspected cause of your symptoms. Dr. Chopra is extensively trained in the various approaches that can treat nerve-related pain in and around the knees, including nerve decompression, nerve repair, and nerve resection. He will review the most optimal technique(s) to address your compromised nerves, reduce pain, and restore function in the lower extremities. The goal of treatment and/or surgery is generally to alleviate existing pain and symptoms while also preventing concerns from worsening in the future.
At Gryskiewicz Twin Cities Cosmetic Surgery, we know that chronic pain in the lower extremities can be debilitating; however, there is hope. Dr. Chopra is one of the few plastic surgeons in the region who can treat chronic pain caused by impaired nerves. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Minneapolis office to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with Dr. Chopra.