NBC -- Doctors and patients say they may have found a way to ease arthritis pain in knees without drugs or surgery.
The makers of the OActive osteoarthritis knee brace and BioniCare system say the system mimics the naturally occurring electrical signal of a healthy knee joint.
Felisha Johnson,46, said she was crippled by arthritis in her knee a few months ago and even had to use a walker.
"She had what was obviously a progressive osteoarthritis," said Dr. John McConnell, her orthopedic surgeon in Dallas. "And we've never had very good treatments for this in the past."
Johnson did not want knee replacement surgery.
"I'm too young for a knee replacement," she said.
McConnell recommended the BioniCare system as an alternative.
"I could get up and walk, and I was thanking God I could get up and walk on my own," Johnson said.
McConnell said the knee brace part of the system shifted weight off the affected areas of Johnson's joint, providing immediate relief.
The system also generates a low-level, pulsed electrical signal to the knee, which may provide long-term benefits.
"What we believe happens is, the electrical stimulus that the generator produces affects cartilage cells and causes the cartilage cells to turn on anabolically and causes them to form new cartilage," McConnell said.
He said it's still too soon to tell if Johnson will still need a knee replacement down the road.
"I won't say that we can eliminate the need for it at some point, but if we postpone it and buy the patient a number of years of function with their own knee, that's preferable to plastic and metal resurfacing," McConnell said.