As we age, it is likely that we all will get some form of osteoarthritis of the joints. The severity of the arthritis will determine how much intervention may be required to ease pain. Surgery should always be the last resort, and there are now more ways to treat pain and avoid a joint replacement as long as possible. Especially during the pandemic, it’s understandable that many are seeking ways to spend as little time in the hospital as possible. Let’s consider your options.
What is Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is essentially the breakdown of the cartilage in your joints over time. We sometimes compare this to when the brake pads in your car wear out. This breakdown can occur through normal wear and tear of the joint as we age, but can be accelerated by other causes.
Factors such as obesity, injuries, surgeries and genetics can increase the speed at which the joint breaks down. To use another simple analogy, think of cartilage like the tread on a tire. Over many miles, the tread wears down based on the load placed on the wheels, the alignment of the vehicle, daily impact and the type of use. When that tread wears down too much, it’s time to get a new tire. The cartilage on our knee joints is very much the same. As the cartilage breaks down, eventually the bone and nerve endings are exposed and can be painful.
The first line of treatment with osteoarthritis is to manage the pain starting with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Physical therapy can be helpful to strengthen the weakened joint and improve range of motion. Many patients find short-term relief with cortisone shots for pain and/or gel injections that lubricate and increase the shock absorption of the joint.
If these conservative measures are no longer helpful, surgical intervention through a joint replacement may seem like your only option. However, advancements in regenerative therapies are providing a new hope for many patients struggling with arthritis and joint pain and can delay or possibly even prevent the need for a replacement. These newer treatments use biologic elements such as your own adult stem cells or blood platelets to ease the pain. In some cases, they may regenerate lost cartilage.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative procedures can stimulate your body’s own healing response to repair bone, muscle, joint, soft tissue and nerve injuries. With arthritis, the body’s ability to heal in an area with little blood flow, like a knee joint, may have diminished. When regenerative cells are concentrated and injected into an arthritic joint, a new healing response may be activated that reduces inflammation, eases pain and may also stimulate the growth of new cartilage.
We all carry stem cells throughout our bodies that act as “repairmen.” Regenerative procedures, such as the ones we perform at Regen Orthopedics, can activate your body’s own adult stem cells and blood platelets to stimulate healing and speed repair for bone, muscle, joint, soft tissue and nerve injuries.
The treatment is outpatient and takes just a couple hours. Unlike surgery, there is no overnight stay needed. As the stem cells begin to do the work in your body, most patients report an improvement in pain and function within a couple weeks and continue to improve for several months as the healing process continues. Ultimately, pain relief can last for several years after a regenerative treatment.
Can anyone have this procedure?
Regenerative medicine is often an alternative for those who are looking to avoid a joint replacement, prolong the need for surgery, or who just may not be a candidate for surgery. Regenerative medicine can be particularly useful for patients who no longer find relief from traditional treatments like cortisone injections. Many patients have been able to stop taking daily pain medicine as well.
Because joint replacements do not last forever, trying these pain relief options first may give patients an opportunity to delay or completely avoid major surgery.