Dr. Yamazaki gave James a shot – two actually – at a pain-free knee so he could avoid knee replacement surgery
James has had a long journey with knee pain. When he was in his 20s he tore his meniscus in his right knee. Despite three surgeries and 20 years, he was still experiencing pain and his leg frequently locking up.
On top of the pain, he was having problems kneeling at church, going up stairs and walking. He was also showing signs of arthritis in his knee.
“I used to love to hike with my kids, but while we were hiking I could barely walk down a trail. It was like I did not have any support or strength in my knees,” says James.
During a visit with his primary care provider James said that his knee was constantly irritating him and he was getting frustrated with the pain. His doctor recommended that James go to see Dr. Kiyoshi Yamazaki and learn about treatment options that could help him.
James liked that Dr. Yamazaki was not an orthopedic surgeon and made an appointment. Dr. Yamazaki completed an evaluation and shared possible treatment options for his condition.
Dr. Yamazaki lubricates away James’ knee pain
“My job is to customize the treatment plan to each patient, his or her injuries and goals,” says Dr. Yamazaki. “We want to help people understand why they are having a problem and comprehend their diagnosis. Then we get a plan together by choosing the best fit to be able to get each patient back to their goals.”
Dr. Yamazaki started with an ultrasound-guided steroid injection into James’ knee to calm down the inflammation inside the joint. Next, viscosupplementation, also known as hyaluronic acid, was injected as a second round of treatment to get the knee oiled and lubricated to avoid banging and grinding of the joint.
“I have been blessed to find Dr. Yamazaki who gave me the facts about these injections,” says James. “It was like getting my life back. It is still not 100 percent; my knees are not like they were in my 20s before I tore my meniscus but what a relief. It felt a lot stronger.”
Injections vs. surgery
James had already had three knee surgeries and during his last surgery they told him a knee replacement was in his future. James did not want a replacement and was excited to learn about other options from Dr. Yamazaki.
“James is a prime example of a person who came to me in pain that was preventing him from being active in the things he loved,” says Dr. Yamazaki. “If you come to me, I will not be in denial of surgical needs, but rather I will confirm what choices a person has and help them if a nonsurgical treatment is the best option.”
Another knee injection to push knee replacement down the road
Dr. Yamazaki explains that he isn’t against orthopedic surgery by any means, but he is against unnecessary surgery for issues that could be resolved with less invasive means. And James is all in on this approach.
“I may need surgery down the road, but I am so thankful that Dr. Yamazaki is helping me push it back for the time being,” points out James.
The viscosupplementation injection, which works as a knee lubricant/cushion, can wear out over time due to gravity and the bones banging together.
“After six months I could tell that my knee was starting to become weak and loose,” says James. “I knew I needed to get back in there for another shot.”
James called the practice and returned for another appointment with Dr. Yamazaki.
“Similar to an oil and lube that you get for your car every 3,000 miles, you also may need to lubricate your joints,” says Dr. Yamazaki. “The idea is that if it is done at first sign of joint pain returning you may not need to reintroduce steroid based injections and can just refill the gel cushioning, which is natural.”
Unfortunately, a viscosupplementation injection cannot reverse the osteoarthritis or re-grow cartilage. But most patients do report relief for around six months before needing another injection to remain active in their activities without post-op restrictions.
Knee pain free and getting back to the things he loves
“The treatment has pretty much eliminated the pain I was experiencing. I am now able to hike, climb over boulders and jump across streams,” says James.
One of James’ favorites pastimes is hiking Castlewood Canyon with his kids and pup. He tries to get out to nature every weekend and during the week enjoys the trails in his neighborhood with a nightly walk.
“Dr. Yamazaki has been a lifesaver to me with providing this treatment,” says James. “I really wish I met him before I had my first surgery. He has given me back a quality of life that I previously was not able to have.”