Knee Pain

Knee pain can greatly impact your quality of life.

At the University of Michigan Health System, we have a wide range of excellent non-surgical and, if necessary, surgical options to find out why you're having pain -- and what we can do to help you. 

We treat all acute and chronic conditions involving the knee, including:

Note: If you have knee pain, you may be able to avoid surgery if you get medical care soon. Your doctor can recommend treatments to alleviate the pain, stabilize your knee and prevent further damage.  

Our success with eliminating our patients' knee pain results from our multidisciplinary approach of including all areas that are involved in your care to develop a treatment plan just for you. 


When you come to the University of Michigan:

  • We will take your medical history, ask you about your pattern of symptoms and conduct a physical exam.
  • We may take X-rays to find out more.

Non-surgical Treatments 

At the University of Michigan Health System, we take the non-surgical approach first. For knee pain, we would look at a variety of options for you, which might include:

  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation (There have been amazing strides in this area, and U-M is a leader in using different forms of therapy and rehabilitation to promote mobility and alleviate pain.)
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Braces
  • Injections
  • Medications
  • Walking aids


We make every effort to find non-surgical solutions for knee pain. But when non-surgical treatment isn't working, the damage to your knee is too severe, or the pain is interfering with your sleep and lifestyle, we may recommend surgery. 

We have three types of surgery available. We are expert in these and have performed hundreds of these operations over the years:

Knee Preservation

There are a few options for joint preservation in the knee. Typically, these are treatments that would be performed before the patient progresses to severe arthritis, such as a knee arthroscopy (making tiny incisions on the knee and using a camera and small surgical instruments) to remove or repair a tear. Another option is an osteotomy, which involves making a cut in the bone to realign the leg by shifting the weight away from the part of the knee that’s wearing out.

Partial and Total Knee Replacement

When there’s severe degenerative damage and the joint has worn down, we consider knee replacement surgery. The knee can be thought of as three separate joints: the inside joint, the outside joint and a joint under the kneecap. There are also techniques to replace each of these compartments, called partial knee replacement, which only replaces the part of the knee that’s damaged. The most common partial knee replacement is the inner knee joint.

We perform more than 250 total knee replacements every year. Total knee replacement replaces the entire knee. A variety of artificial joints are available and are chosen based on the patient’s age, body type and lifestyle.

Typically, patients recover from total knee replacement in 6-12 weeks. For partial knee replacement, recovery takes about 4-8 weeks. Most patients will require physical therapy, which generally lasts 4-6 weeks, depending on how well the patient progresses. We have a team that conducts an education class with each patient before the surgery. Patients start therapy either the day of surgery or the day after to start moving them toward independence. Most patients will begin using a walker, progress to a cane and then finally walk without an assistive device.

About 90 percent of total knee replacements will still be in place 15 years later. People under age 55 tend to wear out their replaced knee joints sooner, which is why we recommend non-surgical techniques first.

Contact Us / Make an Appointment by calling

  • Orthopaedics, 734-936-5780
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), 734-936-7175
  • Rheumatology, 888-229-3065

You're about to make an important decision, and we want to help you make a good one. Let our years of experience diagnosing and treating knee pain help you. Visit our Contact Us page to see a list of Musculoskeletal Call Centers. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about your options and how we can help.