Avascular Necrosis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & More!

Avascular necrosis pain

Avascular necrosis, also known as osteonecrosis, is a condition that occurs when blood supply to a bone is disrupted, causing the bone tissue to die. This can lead to bone collapse, arthritis, and other complications. Avascular necrosis can occur in any bone in the body, but it most commonly affects the hips, knees, shoulders, and ankles.

What is Avascular Necrosis?

Avascular necrosis, also known as osteonecrosis, occurs when bone tissue dies due to a lack of blood supply. This condition can start off slow but as it progresses it causes more damage to the bone tissue and more pain.

Avascular necrosis affects joints such as the knees, shoulders, and ankles, but it most commonly affects the hips.


What are the Symptoms of Avascular Necrosis?

In the beginning stages of avascular necrosis, it is likely that you will experience no symptoms at all. As time goes on and the bone tissue experiences more damage, symptoms may include:


What Causes Avascular Necrosis?

The cause of avascular necrosis is not always known, but it is often caused by bone fractures that prevent blood flow to the bone.

Conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, lupus, and HIV can all increase your risk of developing avascular necrosis.

Prevention of Avascular Necrosis:

While not all cases of avascular necrosis can be prevented, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the condition. These include:

  1. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption

  2. Using caution when taking steroids or other medications that can increase the risk of avascular necrosis

  3. Treating underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of avascular necrosis

  4. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular exercise to improve bone strength

How is Avascular Necrosis Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms of avascular necrosis, seek help from an orthopedic doctor near you. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, symptoms, and perform a physical exam. If they suspect that you have avascular necrosis, they may use imaging such as an x-ray or MRI to confirm diagnosis.


How Is Avascular Necrosis Treated?

There is no cure for avascular necrosis, but treatment can help to slow the development of the disease. Most people with avascular necrosis will eventually need surgery.

In the beginning stages of avascular necrosis, orthopedists can recommend conservative treatment:

When avascular necrosis becomes more advanced, surgery may be necessary. Surgical procedures that may be performed to relieve avascular necrosis pain include:

Other Common Questions Regarding Avascular Necrosis

Can avascular necrosis be cured?

In some cases, avascular necrosis can be cured with early diagnosis and treatment. However, in severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged bone tissue, transplant healthy bone tissue, or replace the joint.

Which bones are most commonly affected by avascular necrosis?

Avascular necrosis can occur in any bone in the body, but it most commonly affects the hips, knees, shoulders, and ankles.

Is avascular necrosis a common condition?

Avascular necrosis is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting about 10,000 to 20,000 people in the United States each year. However, it can be a serious and debilitating condition if left untreated.

Ways to Stay Active with Avascular Necrosis

If you have avascular necrosis, it's important to stay active and engage in exercise to help maintain joint mobility and reduce the risk of complications. However, it's also important to avoid activities that put excessive stress on the affected joint. Here are some good exercises for people with avascular necrosis:

  1. Low-impact aerobic exercise: Walking, swimming, cycling, and using an elliptical machine are all good options for low-impact aerobic exercise that can help maintain cardiovascular health and improve joint mobility.

  2. Range-of-motion exercises: Simple exercises that involve moving the affected joint through its full range of motion can help maintain joint flexibility and reduce stiffness. Examples include shoulder circles, ankle rolls, and knee bends.

  3. Strength training: Strengthening the muscles around the affected joint can help improve joint stability and reduce the risk of further damage. Light weightlifting, resistance band exercises, and bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges can all be effective.

  4. Yoga and Pilates: These gentle forms of exercise can help improve flexibility, strength, and balance, without putting excessive stress on the joints. Be sure to avoid poses that put pressure on the affected joint.

  5. Water exercises: Water aerobics and swimming are great options for people with avascular necrosis, as they provide a low-impact workout that can help maintain joint mobility and reduce pain.

Remember to always consult with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise program, and to avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort in the affected joint.

Seek Help From an Orthopedic Surgeon Near You

If you think you may have avascular necrosis, it is important to seek help from an orthopedic surgeon or a medical professional. Treating avascular necrosis early can help slow the progress of the disease and allow you to live a more pain-free lifestyle.

At Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics, our surgeons each specialize in a specific part of the musculoskeletal system. Depending on the location of your avascular necrosis you may need to see a hip specialist, knee specialist, shoulder specialist, or foot and ankle specialist.

To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic providers, call us at 615-324-1600 or request and appointment online.  


In conclusion, avascular necrosis is a serious condition that can cause significant pain and disability. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing the condition and preventing further complications. By making lifestyle changes and taking steps to reduce the risk of avascular necrosis, individuals can help protect their bones and maintain their overall health and well-being.

Marina von Rutenberg Marina is the Marketing Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/marina-von-rutenberg/

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