Let’s face it. Pain is no fun! When our bodies hurt it can really take the wind out of our sails and make us miserable. Millions and millions of Americans are trying to find viable solutions to manage chronic joint pain from old injury or osteoarthritis. It is estimated that over 111 million prescriptions for NSAIDs are written every year and although they are very effective for short term use, chronic use has been well documented to contribute to over 100,000 hospitalizations and close to 17,000 deaths per year due to gastric bleeding and other side effects.
We’re all aware of the opioid epidemic that is sweeping across the nation. In the late 1990’s pharmaceutical companies assured doctors that opiate prescription drugs wouldn’t cause addiction so they began prescribing them as a first line treatment for pain. As people began to become dependent on them, they became harder and harder to get legally so many people turned to heroin to self medicate. This problem has blossomed to where we are now with close to 35,000 people dying of opiate overdose in 2016. Recent studies were just released that noted that these pharmaceutical opiate drugs were not any more effective in treating chronic joint pain and osteoarthritis than NSAIDS but their rate of serious, life threatening effects were much higher.
Chiropractic and other natural approaches
Of course, our approach is first to address all joint pain issues from as natural and conservative approach as possible. Starting with normalizing body alignment and movement through chiropractic, massage, spinal decompression, active therapeutic movement therapy, laser therapy and other supportive modalities. In addition, addressing inflammation through diet and nutritional support is also a must.
But what happens when all of that isn’t quite enough? Are there any more options to investigate before you resort to considering joint surgery?
Augmenting the Regenerative Process
There are some amazing new discoveries in the fields of cell biology that are opening new vistas of possibilities for actually helping our bodies regrow and repair tissues that have been damaged. Some of these developments would have seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago.
Each of us has 100 trillion individual cells in our body. These cells are highly differentiated into the specific type of cell that each organ needs to do it’s job. What exactly controls this amazing process of differentiation is still largely unknown but science has long known that all of these various cells actually derive from some common “master” cells called “pluripotent stem cells”. Under the right conditions, these masters cells become activated to direct cells differentiation.
As we age, the concentration of stem cells in our bodies decrease dramatically. That is one of the reasons that we heal slower the older we get. So the theory holds that if we could somehow increase the concentration of these stem cells in injured or degenerated tissues, we could actually induce them to repair and regenerate tissues.
The process of investigating the best ways to induce these cells to repair various tissues is a long and tedious one. Hundreds and hundreds of studies are currently underway all around the world and researchers believe that stem cell therapies may hold the promise of treatment and cures of over 70 major diseases that affect millions of people.
While it is true that we are only in the infant stages of where this regenerative medicine science will go, there are already some very promising areas where clinical effectiveness is being seen.
Knee and large joint pain
At our office, we have felt that the area with the highest likelihood of clinical success as well as one with a high demand in the community is the treatment of degenerative knee joints. So many people have knee pain from old injuries and they are just dealing with the pain. Many people have already been to the orthopedic surgeon and heard them say, “its starting to get bad in there. I’ll see you when the pain gets intolerable and we’ll do a total knee replacement.” Often these people are perfect canditates for an injection of stem cells into those joints to stimulate the repair and regrowth of ligament, cartilege and tendons. In effect making that joint “younger” and healthier and hopefully eliminating that dreaded date with the surgeon.