3 Medicare Covered Alternatives to Knee Replacement Cortisone and Pain Meds


If the prospect of having knee replacement surgery isn’t exactly high on your list of things to do, you will be happy to know that there are alternatives. Unfortunately, the challenge people often have is that not all of them are covered by insurance.

If you are like most people who need to have knee replacement, there is a good chance that you have Medicare. This is because, according to Healthline, the average age of people having the surgery is 70.

So,if you are looking to avoid knee replacement surgery and the risks that come along with it, you can try these three options that are covered by Medicare to see if you can get better results.


1. Viscosupplementation

A knee replacement is typically used to treat a knee that has a bone on bone condition in the knee joint, which causes severe joint pain. This condition is usually created by osteoartritis, where the cartilage in the joint that prevents the two bones from rubbing together has worn down.

Viscosupplementation is a medical procedure where a lubricating fluid, called hyaluronic acid, is injected into the knee joint between the two bones. Hyaluronic acid is a key component of joint fluid in healthy joints, but is found in lower concentrations in joints of people with osteoarthritis.

The hyaluronic acid helps to lubricate the worn down joint, facilitate better movement, reduce pain and slow down the progression of the osteoarthritis because the bones are not continuing to rub together.

The treatment typically lasts 6 months to year and is repeatable every 6 months if needed. The best benefit is that because it is natural, it has very few side effects.

2. Unloader Knee Brace

Because of an increase in obesity, more people have knee osteoarthritis than ever before. Most often, the arthritis affects the inner portion of the knee. This makes the knee wobble toward the inner part of the knee when walking. The net result is that their knee joint doesn’t wear down evenly. Instead, one side typically wears out, while the other stays healthier.

Made of molded foam plastic and steel struts, an unloader knee brace is designed to limit the side movement of the knee.  It puts three points of pressure on the thigh bone, forcing the knee to bend away from the painful area of the joint.

3. Nerve Therapy

Some patients have nerves of the knee pinched by the worn down knee. When the nerve is pinched, it can mask any improvement made by the above treatments. Patients with this problem often sleep with a pillow between their knees, have pain on the inner side of their knee, or have additional pain of the leg below the knee.

Nerve therapy uses computers to visualize where the nerve is being compressed, so the nerve can be non-surgically shifted out of the way.


Alternatives Not Covered By Medicare To Consider

Unfortunately, the alternative treatments that medicare covers center around pain management and not fixing the problem you have in your knee joint. Although Medicare also covers knee replacement, there are definite risks to having this surgery. And, once your joint has been replaced, you can’t put it back.

You can learn more in our article, The Case Against Knee Replacement Surgery.


Platelet-Rich Plasma

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are designed to help stimulate the healing of bone and soft tissue in the knee joint. When your body has a soft tissue injury, the first thing it does is send platelets to the injured area. Platelets contain growth factors and cytokines that repair tissue naturally. This treatment mimics the body’s natural process.

For this treatment, blood is drawn from the patient and spun in a centrifuge at high speed to separate out the platelets and the growth factors.  The platelets are then injected into the injured knee joint to start the natural healing process.

Patients typically need three injections and start to see an improvement in 2 to 6 weeks after the first injection. Some patients have reported seeing continued improvements 6 to 9 months after receiving treatment. No anesthesia or hospital stays are necessary, and patients usually return to work or job duties the next day.


Stem Cell Therapy

The majority of knee replacements are done because the cartilage between the bones of the knee joint has worn away. But what if there was a treatment that could regrow your cartilage so you wouldn’t have to get knee replacement surgery.

In our article, An Alarming Trend in Joint Replacement Surgeries, we discussed how stem cell treatments are proving to actually regrow cartilage. That is why stem cell therapy is quickly becoming a very popular treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Stem cells reside in adult bone marrow, fat, organs and tissue. Known as the body’s repair kit, they have the ability to regenerate and heal the knee joint naturally. The treatments usually involve retrieving stem cells from fat tissue and injecting them into the knee joint. Once there, they signal the body to regenerate the tissue.

This is a non-invasive procedure that is completed right in the doctor’s office. Typically, patients are able to go back to work the next day. This translates into a quicker healing process and less time off work.


Total knee replacement surgery has helped a lot of people, and in some cases is the best option. But replacement surgery does have significant risks. And, most people don’t realize that the replacement joint doesn’t last forever. Typically, it only lasts 10 to 15 years, prompting a revision surgery later.

While non-surgical Medicare covered treatments can help you manage pain, they don’t fix your knee. It is definitely worth looking at the alternative treatments that Medicare doesn’t cover right now. These treatments can range from $3,000 to $7,000, depending on the severity of your knee.

While you will have to pay for the alternative treatments that Medicare doesn’t cover, most doctors will have financing options available. The question you have to ask yourself is “How much is the quality of my life worth?”

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