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Runners World: Prescriptions for Narcotics Are Surging for Knee Pain

Runner's World recently interviewed Steve Yoon, MD, physiatrist and director of the Regenerative Sports and Joint Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, about prescription use in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

The article is based on a research study published in Arthritis Care & Research, suggesting U.S. physicians may be leaning toward pain medications instead of prescribing physical therapy and encouraging lifestyle changes for patients with the condition.

The study, however, didn’t use data past 2015, as it wasn’t available at the time. And as Runner’s World explains, over the past five years, the opioid epidemic and overdoses mushroomed, causing many physicians to restrict prescribing strong pain medications. 

Yoon, who was not part of the research study, says he was surprised by the results and thinks the findings are based on the fact that knee osteoarthritis is notoriously difficult to treat.

“During that time period, pain pills, and particularly opioids, became an easier way to deal with knee osteoarthritis pain,” said Yoon. “But when it was recognized there was a problem, you started to see more scrutiny, and I think now there’s less of a rush toward pain control.”

Another issue Yoon detailed to Runner's World is patient demand for pain relief. Yoon suggests it takes around three to four months of hard work with physical therapy to make the muscles surrounding the knee stronger, which has led many physicians to look beyond prescriptions toward other options.

“Of course we still want to reduce pain, but now there’s more focus on approaches like icing, weight loss, acupuncture, cryotherapy, anti-inflammatory diets, CBD oil, and other alternative options,” Yoon said.

Still, a runner's best technique to avoid knee osteoarthritis—and the need for prescription medication—is prevention, Yoon told Runner's World 

“Typically, this is an overuse injury and it’s progressive, which is why it’s so hard to treat,” said Yoon. “Your knee is degenerating, and we can’t reverse that. Many people end up gaining weight and getting deconditioned, which makes the degeneration happen faster. So, your best bet is to start a strength program now, before you have issues, because prevention is everything with this.”

Read the complete story here.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai blog: Ask a Doc: Is Running Good or Bad for You?