Much of today’s common joint pain is from the gradual wearing down of cartilage, and eventually bone – this is known as osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, this can also happen quite rapidly, such as after significant injuries from sports or motor-vehicle-accidents. Regardless of how the loss of cartilage and bone occurred, the symptoms of pain and stiffness, and the impact on quality of life are quite similar. I am writing this article because I believe that the options available to people with these conditions aren’t well known. I hope to fill a knowledge gap for both patients and their healthcare providers by addressing this directly, and showing that safe and effective non-surgical treatment options are available.
Some of the most commonly used treatments for pain include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include Aspirin, ibuprofen, and celecoxib; it may also include drugs that work via turning off your brain’s awareness of pain signals (such as with Tylenol / acetaminophen), or by decreasing muscular cramping (as with Robaxin / methocarbamol).
While these methods can provide short-term relief, they are not addressing the problem in any way, and they can cause harm and side effects especially if used long term or at higher doses. The use of these medications is appropriate for many short-term cases, but is often not the best choice for long-term solutions.
The next layer of common treatment options includes joint replacement, such as with the knee or hip joints. I would highly recommend looking into the research & satisfaction rates of those receiving these treatments before undertaking any of these procedures; education is even more important when undergoing irreversible procedures. As a brief overview, joint replacements lead to satisfactory results in many, but simply doesn’t work for everyone.
More specifically, one large meta-analysis (a research document that compiles useful info from many previous studies) suggested that about 80% of patients could walk without a limp by 3-6 weeks after hip-replacement surgery, while at 3.5 years post-surgery, one third of patients still required walking-assistance equipment, and 42% of patients were able to walk unassisted without being restricted by hip pain or immobility (Shan, Shan, Graham, & Saxena, 2014). The bottom line that this procedure has helped many people, but does not help everyone, and has significant risks associated with it. It is critical for patients to understand the risks, harms, and benefits before committing to irreversible treatment.
While drugs and surgery can provide relief, they simply are not appropriate for all cases. A strong argument can also be made for attempting all reasonable and safe therapies before turning to serious and irreversible options such as surgery. There are other options that are less invasive, and have research showing impressive effectiveness and safety profiles. Regenerative injections including prolotherapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapies both have numerous randomized controlled trials showing significantly decreased pain, and improved function in osteoarthritis cases – especially so for knee and hip osteoarthritis. For those who are science-savvy, enough studies have been performed specifically for knee osteoarthritis and treatment by each of prolotherapy and PRP, that a number of meta-analyses for each of these therapies can be found by a simple internet search from reputable databases such as PubMed Health – one of my favorite resources. To make it easier for those who are interested, here are direct links to a couple of recent studies. Just click on the following: Review & Analysis of Prolotherapy for Knee Osteoarthritis (Hung, Hsiao, Chang, Han, & Wang, 2016), and Review & Analysis for PRP & Knee Osteoarthritis (Joshi Jubert, Rodríguez, Reverté-Vinaixa, & Navarro, 2017).
How Can This Help Me?
What does this research mean from a patient’s perspective? It means there are answers beyond drugs and surgery that work. The treatments are relatively simple, safe and effective, and do not involve highly invasive procedures as with surgery. This translates into decreased pain, improved mobility, and improved quality of life.
In other words, it can offer the freedom to do more of what you want to do without the distraction or barriers of pain. In addition, I believe that my comprehensive assessment and personalized treatment plans will further enhance the positive results of these therapies. After all, every person and situation is unique, and thus can benefit from individualization of the treatment approach and focus. As a simple example, if we ensure the body has the necessary nutrition and building blocks to support growth and regeneration before beginning these treatments, our bodies and joints are much better equipped to take full advantage of the desired regenerative effects.
The appropriate nutritional support can augment the already impressive results of regenerative injection therapies to ultimately lead to better health, more freedom, and less pain.
If you are considering these therapies or wondering if they are right for you, I encourage you to come to the clinic for a brief complimentary consult. Here we can discuss the available treatment options, what to expect, and what the recommended treatment approach might look like for your unique case. This will allow you to meet your doctor and support staff, have a tour of our clinic, ask questions, and ultimately make an informed decision as to whether a personalized regenerative therapy approach is right for you.
References Used in Text:
- Hung, C., Hsiao, M., Chang, K., Han, D., & Wang, T. (2016). Comparative effectiveness of dextrose prolotherapy versus control injections and exercise in the management of osteoarthritis pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal Of Pain Research, Volume 9, 847-857.
- Joshi Jubert, N., Rodríguez, L., Reverté-Vinaixa, M., & Navarro, A. (2017). Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections for Advanced Knee Osteoarthritis: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blinded Clinical Trial. Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine, 5(2), 232596711668938.
- Shan, L., Shan, B., Graham, D., & Saxena, A. (2014). Total hip replacement: a systematic review and meta-analysis on mid-term quality of life. Osteoarthritis And Cartilage, 22(3), 389-406.