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Alternatives to Surgery for Knee Joint Pain Relief

knee joint pain relief

knee joint pain

Knee injuries are quite common.

Estimates are that they are responsible for more than 1 million surgeries every year.

About 650,000 of those are arthroscopic meniscal procedures.

Considering that in particular these meniscal procedures can leave the knee in an unstable condition (the re-operation rate for post-meniscectomy procedures may be up to 29%) this is a very high number.

Fortunately, for some patients, regenerative medicine may help provide knee joint pain relief without painful and invasive surgery.

What Causes Knee Pain?

In order to understand why it’s so important to find alternatives to surgery for knee joint pain relief, it’s worth first understanding where the pain comes from in the first place, and the knee’s anatomy.

One of the most frequently injured components is the meniscus, a fibrocartilagionous, crescent-shaped structure which is actually divided into two specific parts: the medial and lateral menisci.

These menisci give the knee its structural integrity, while delivering lubrication and nutrition to the articular cartilage and shock absorption to the structure as a whole when moving around. A number of ligaments also work with the mensci in tandem, in order to prevent overextension.

The menisci can get damaged in two ways: gradual overuse and acute injury. Tears tend to be the most common form of injury. The trouble with the meniscus is it’s poorly vascularized — it has limited blood flow. (Just 10-25% of the meniscus has a direct supply of blood.) If the area is injured, the chances of an internal, natural repair are limited. The other areas cannot heal from injuries at all.

Identifying A Meniscal Tear

Patients who suffer a meniscus tear as a result of trauma or sudden injury experience immediate, sudden pain, often accompanied by a kind of pop. If the tear is the result of overuse and ongoing stress, the pain will tend to be less obtrusive. It simply increases in time.

For both cases, the injury is usually accompanied by some swelling and an overall reduction in mechanical function and mobility. Meniscal tears are often also accompanied by popping, clicking, or locking in the knee joint.

Though many patients decide to seek help as a result of overt symptoms like these, a surprising number of patients have torn menisci yet don’t realize it. One study found that 60% of patients whose knees got an MRI scan showed a meniscal tear, though they didn’t have the symptoms.

As a result, patients who have an MRI for knee pain come back with a mensical tear may have had the tear silently for 20 years or more — yet their doctors may recommend surgery.

Healing The Knee Without Surgery

Ultimately, the problem with surgery is that it cannot change the lack of a blood supply to the meniscus. The surgery does not allow the body to heal itself, so surgeries often result in more pain, instability, and degeneration.

Instead, PRP or stem cell therapy may be able to help with knee pain, and do it without surgery. PRP therapy in particular delivers to the damaged or torn meniscus an ‘extra dose’ of the things it needs: healing factors like platelets, which allow the meniscus to heal itself.

Best of all, this procedure does not require a hospital visit or any physical therapy for recovery. Regenerative techniques can often be done on a same-day, in-office basis.

Scottish Rugby Star Rory McKenzie Undergoes PRP Treatment

Scottish soccer player Rory McKenzie recently underwent the same state-of-the-art PRP treatment that tennis star Rafa Nadal used to cure his knee tendonitis — and, like Nadal, McKenzie is back in full training.PRP Treatment

The 21-year-old McKenzie recovered from a two-month break using the same therapy which he previously used to recover from a similar medical problem back in 2012.

In PRP therapy like McKenzie underwent, blood is taken from the system, spun in a centrifuge, sometimes with chemicals like calcium chloride and thrombin, and then subsequently re-injected into the affected area.

“I was trying to play through” the injury, McKenzie told reporters, but eventually “it got to the stage” where he simply couldn’t do it. Some mornings he woke up unable to get out of bed or even move.

Eventually he went to a clinic and had the PRP procedure done, after first trying more conservative therapies which failed to produce results. “The surgeon who gave the [PRP treatment] to me said all the top [soccer] clubs are using it now,” McKenzie noted.

Originally McKenzie had feared that his injury was the result of playing on the artificial turf at his home stadium, which would mean he would likely experience the same problems again and again. Yet he’s observed plenty of players on other teams — who play on natural grass — experience similar issues, so McKenzie feels it was “just bad luck” that he got hurt.

McKenzie Far From The First To Benefit From PRP Therapy

McKenzie isn’t the first athlete to benefit from PRP treatment by any means.

Tiger Woods, New York Giants’ defensive tackle Chris Canty, and Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee (among many others) have used it to treat sore knees, hamstrings, and abdomens respectively.

Tiger Woods received not one but four separate PRP injections in his left knee before he played in all four of 2009’s professional golf majors, this following surgery.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito may have been able to return for 2008’s Major League Baseball playoffs thanks to PRP injections to his elbow.

The theory is that by centrifuging a person’s blood to the point where it contains a concentrated blend of growth factors and plasma cells, then re-injecting it into injured tissue, the mixture will speed healing and improve tissue health. According to some doctors, PRP treatment may enable delivery of healing or growth factors to areas where the body has difficulty supplying them on its own — such as regions like the Achilles tendon.

Lab studies have shown that when scientists used surgery to produce lesions in lab animals’ tendons or other tissues, the PRP treatment encouraged the tissues to quickly produce new blood vessels and collagen. Professional athletes’ testimonials from using the therapy have created a great deal of excitement around the therapy, with sports enthusiasts using it to treat a variety of conditions from back pain to tennis elbow.

In fact, PRP therapy was originally used to help speed bone healing and soft tissue recovery following spinal injuries and plastic surgery. It wasn’t until around 2008 that it started seeing wide use for sports injuries, after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward used it right before they won the Super Bowl. As a result, more and more patients started asking about the therapy.

How We Treat Knee Joint Pain

The PRP or stem cell treatments we use at Regenerative Medicine Specialists can help treat a variety of knee joint pain issues without needing surgery or steroid injections. Our procedures happen in the office, usually on a same-day basis, and hospitalization is not required.

Because the therapies we use are aimed at allowing your body to regenerate damaged tissue, they can treat many different conditions without the side effects or risks associated with normal treatments.

We consider this to be groundbreaking technology — it addresses the main, underlying condition, instead of simply trying to treat the symptoms.

When it comes to the knee itself, there are many different structures which are vulnerable to either chronic degradation or acute injury: bones, menisci, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bursae.

Until now, patients with knee joint pain for whom conservative treatments like rest and ice failed to produce results could only turn to steroid injection, surgery, or addictive opioids.

PRP and stem cell treatments, on the other hand, help relieve the pain, restore normal function, and do it without many of the problems posed by other therapies.

Treating Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Syndrome)

Runner’s Knee, more properly known as patellofemoral syndrome and sometimes also called Jumper’s Knee, is the most common knee problem overall. Athletes of all types may be diagnosed with it, and heavier or older patients sometimes develop this condition also.

knee painPatellofemoral syndrome has to do with a feature that makes the knee unique in the body. In the knee, the patella (commonly called the kneecap) is placed over the anterior surface. On the underside of the patella is a layer of cartilage which helps the patella slide over the knee joint’s distal femur when the quadriceps muscle contracts to extend the knee.

Commonly, patients develop tendonitis on the patellar tendon or arthritis on the patella underside which is very limiting and painful when it comes to mobility. Non-regenerative technique often fail to provide enough sustained relief, leading patients to feel surgery is their only option.

Yet with stem cell and PRP treatment, we can enable the body to repair itself — an option which provides effective and lasting relief.

Arthritis in the Knee

Especially for patients over age 45 and patients who are overweight, osteoarthritis of the knee is a very common condition.

It is a degenerative condition, “wear and tear,” and in this condition the knee’s cartilage becomes damaged or lost in time. The bones begin grinding together directly, which triggers reactive bony overgrowth as well as reduced mobility and serious pain. The pain tends to be much worse while performing activities, though it may be present even when resting.

Knee trauma may accelerate the development of osteoarthritis and trigger premature arthritis in younger patients.

Traditional treatments like hyaluronic acid injection or steroids can sometimes give temporary relief, but many patients eventually need a total knee replacement surgery. This involves significant post-operative pain as well as a prolonged recovery.

Thanks to PRP or stem cell treatments, however, it’s often possible to avoid a major procedure.

Our treatments use the body’s own cells to regenerate tissues in the joint, alleviating dysfunction and pain. Since the treatment is done on an outpatient basis, there is also no hospital stay.

Treating ACL Tears with Stem Cells

Treating ACL Tears with Stem CellsKnees are the largest joints in our bodies. They’re also amongst the hardest working joints, allowing daily flexion, extension and slight internal and external rotation of the legs. As being one of the most used joints, they are also the most commonly injured.

Within the knee is the “Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), one of the four major ligaments of the knee joint that coordinate function and promote stability of the knee joint [and] provides roughly 90 percent of stability in the knee joint,” as defined by UCFS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, who also report that, “ACL injury has an annual incidence of more than 200,000 cases with 70 percent of cases occurring while playing agility sports.”

Though the majority of damage to the ACL is dominantly sports related, injury can occur in any case in which there is sudden stopping, twisting or pivoting, unbalanced landing from a jump, or attempt to regain balance from a stumble or fall. People experience degrees of damage that can range from partial to complete tear of the ACL, resulting in a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of injury including:

  • Feeling a “giving out” in the knee
  • Hearing a “pop” at the time of injury
  • Immediate pain when ligament tears
  • Severe swelling, tenderness, and/or stiffness
  • Inability to bear weight on the knee
  • Overall difficulty walking normally

Traditional treatment for acute ACL tears or injury consists of invasive operative procedures which consist of at least six to nine months of physical therapy before the patient can return to normal levels of functioning and activity.

However, stem cell therapies available at Regen Doctor offer a viable alternative for those who may be considering surgery due to a partial or complete non-retracted ACL tear. By using PRP and/or stem cell treatments, surgical procedures and related risks can be avoided.

Regenerative treatment options utilize the body’s own signaling cells to heal a site-specific area of an affected limb, allowing accelerated regeneration of joint tissues in the ACL. These non-operative procedures are provided in-office, with recovery time averaging a few weeks for patients, as opposed to many months of rehabilitation post surgery.

Stem cell therapies are trusted and proven orthopedic treatments to help alleviate pain and regain function of the knees from ACL tears or sprains.

Contact us a Regen Doctor in Ventura County to learn more about regenerative medicine, and to find out if your a candidate for this revolutionary treatment for healing your ACL injury.