The Care and Keeping of Healthy Joints
The moveable joints that allow our knees and elbows to function smoothly are made up of cartilage, bone, ligaments, and fluid. When these structures and the bones they are attached to in our legs and arms are healthy and well cared for, we can move easily and without the risk of painful bone-on-bone friction. Joint health is important because it contributes to the wellbeing of our bones and muscles and allows us to engage in activities such as running, jumping, and walking. The bottom line when it comes to our joints is this: whether you are interested in functional fitness, sports fitness, or simply the ability to get from one point of your home to another, you need your joints to be in good working order.
We rely heavily on our joints for nearly every movement we make. As such, this constant use makes them and their supportive structures more injury- prone. In addition to falls, sprains, twists, and accidents, there are diseases that can wreak havoc on our joints, too. For example, conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lyme disease often present with, amongst other symptoms, pain in the joints and swelling of the surrounding tissue. While there are ways to avoid contracting some of these illnesses, there is no way to avoid all of them. That said, we must address the attendant pain and deconstruction of the joints that millions of people face.
Standard Treatments, Remedies, and Ways to Prevent Joint Pain
There are a myriad number of ways to address joint health and pain.The best ways to do so include preventive care, overall health management, and the use of proper form and technique when bending, stretching, and lifting.
One of the most important and beneficial things you can do for your joints is exercise regularly. Our bodies conduct themselves in a fashion similar to the proverbial well oiled machine. This is demonstrated by our joints’ need to be lubricated for better ease of movement. When we exercise, we stimulate blood flow throughout the body which helps carry important nutrients via the bloodstream to cartilage, bone, and other systems. Additionally, exercise can prevent joints from getting stiff, which is a highly proactive way to guard your health.
In addition to exercise, maintaining a nutrient rich diet that nourishes the joints is also vital. For example, foods such as seasonal fruits, whole wheat bread, black soybeans, olive oil, ginger, and an assortment of grains have been shown to reduce inflammation in the joints. Researchers are quick to point out that while these foods are not to be considered curative, they can prevent deterioration or further decompensation of the joints.
Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen are drugs that can be taken orally and have demonstrated significant improvement in the pain and swelling often found in and around damaged joints. One must be careful to take these medications as prescribed and only for a limited amount of time however, as they can promote internal bleeding and corrosion of the stomach lining.
Topical treatments that include anti inflammatory medications, can also effectively treat pain without causing harmful, gastrointestinal side effects. Some of the more commonly used topical analgesics include creams and gels with capsaicin, mint leaves, aspirin, and lidocaine. These treatments provide concentrated, localized pain relief that generally has very few side effects or contraindicates other types of medications. While oral and topical treatments are more frequently used, injectable pain medications are available, too. For example cortisone shots are used as an intensive anti-inflammatory, while epidurals work as pain blockers and are most often used in pregnant and laboring women.
Platelet Rich Plasma as a Treatment and Recovery Modality
Another type of treatment that has demonstrated great promise and hope for sufferers of joint pain is the use of injectable, platelet rich plasma (PRP).
Platelet rich plasma is a concentrated mixture of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and the liquid portion of blood known as plasma. Though platelets are known more commonly for their clotting factors, they are utilized in PRP treatment because of their growth factor proteins. These proteins promote healing and restorative care, and serve as an ideal way to help individuals with joint pain. One of the unique features of this procedure is that patient blood can be used to treat the patient who donated it. Whether the components are used in an office procedure or as post operative palliation, PRP appears to be effective in the fight for pain- free, joint health.
Prior to injecting plasma rich platelets, blood must be drawn and then placed in a centrifuge that separates the blood’s components. During this centrifugation, platelet concentration increases dramatically and is then combined with the blood that was initially drawn. Once this platelet- rich plasma has been collected, it can in turn be injected into the joint requiring relief, along with a local anesthetic. Though the benefit from this treatment may take a few weeks, the reduction in pain after that period of time can be dramatic. For surgical patients, platelet rich plasma can be injected into the surgical site, in a way that allows the healing materials to be inserted directly into the tissue.
While several factors, such as the extent of damage to the joint, the patient’s age and health status, as well as the area being treated, are all issues with which to contend, PRP treatments have shown promising results. Patients with osteoarthritis and moderate joint damage have reported a decrease in pain, an increase in quality of life, and improved cartilage thickness.
There are concerns related to the longstanding efficacy of PRP treatments, but that may be due in large measure to the need for more research. With that however, there are candidates for PRP treatment that should be encouraged to pursue other avenues. For example, alcohol drinkers are poor candidates for this type of care, because alcohol affects the blood’s ability to clot and in turn, can directly challenge the efficacy of your PRP treatment. Smokers are also not candidates for this type of therapy because of the tar contained within the cigarettes they smoke. Tar can affect growth hormones within plasma-rich platelets, making the treatment futile and possibly dangerous for this part of the population.
Choosing the Treatment that Works For You
The staff of Body Systems Wellness in Glendale, California, under the watchful and trained eye of Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC, can help you determine which joint treatment is best for you. With a conviction to helping the public live a life that is pain free, we welcome you to ask us about platelet rich plasma and how you can become a stronger, better, more mobile version of yourself. At Body Systems Wellness, we know that determining the right type of pain management involves making safe, knowledgeable decisions that contribute to, and do not take away from, your overall welfare. Call us for a free consultation today.