“Why am I in pain?” is one of the most commonly searched phrases online. A single search of that question delivers well over a billion different responses. But, even with all this practically limitless information, many people still can’t find real solutions to their chronic pain. They try over-the-counter pain medication, hot and cold compresses, and just “toughing it out.” Sometimes, this helps. Sometimes, the pain keeps coming back, getting worse each time.
Often, people suffering from chronic joint or back pain believe living with that pain is their “new normal,” that they just have to “learn to live with it” as their pain increases, their joint flexibility decreases, and their quality of life steadily diminishes. Thankfully, for many people, this is not the case. Proven, cutting-edge medicine allows us to successfully treat the root cause of the joint and back pain using safe, minimally-invasive approaches that don’t involve surgery.
One of the most common causes of recurring or chronic back and joint pain is a degenerative joint disease called Osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
While the term “arthritis” describes many different kinds of joint inflammation, the word is often used as an umbrella to define more than 200 different medical conditions affecting the joints and surrounding or connecting tissue. Osteoarthritis is, by far, the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide.
This degenerative joint condition results from injury to or wear-and-tear affecting joint tissue. When the cartilage and other soft tissue that cushion and protect the joint is worn down, bone damage and inflammation occur, putting pressure on nerves, which leads to joint pain, weakness, and progressive loss of function. This may also be experienced as “tenderness” or “stiffness” in the shoulders, hips, and knees, and “locking up” of the spinal vertebrae in the back.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is usually the result of previous injury or wear-and-tear on the joint, so the joint pain and weakness associated with the condition tend to worsen over time. However, symptoms of osteoarthritis are often perceived to worsen suddenly. This can be because of the tendency to ignore or discount “random” aches and pains as “just feeling my age” or as the result of “going too hard” or “doing too much.” While that may be the case, these not-really-random aches and pains may also be an early indicator of developing osteoarthritis. In other cases, the sudden worsening of symptoms could indicate a more serious or advanced condition putting additional pressure on the nerves and strain on the joint.
The important takeaway here is to not ignore the pain, discomfort, weakness, or stiffness in your joints. It may not get better, and it’s possible the symptoms will get worse over time. Here are several key indicators that it may be time to seek medical treatment:
Frequent or chronic pain, with flare-ups after exercise
Tenderness in and around the joint, even with only light pressure applied
Stiffness, especially after long rests or first thing in the morning
Decreased flexibility and reduced range of motion
Grating, crunching, or popping sensation in the joint
Any of these symptoms could indicate the presence of osteoarthritis due to soft tissue degeneration in the joint, especially if these symptoms are accompanied by certain risk factors, including advanced age, obesity, previous joint injuries, repetitive stress on the joint, bone deformities, or some metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Because osteoarthritis is the result of a degenerative condition, catching and treating it early offers the best potential for relieving pain and increasing quality of life. If you are experiencing infrequent or moderate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, there are a few preventative steps to take to slow the progression of the condition. People who are overweight should consider working to reduce their BMI for many different health reasons. Shedding excess weight slows the progression of osteoarthritis, because that additional weight often exacerbates the wear-and-tear inside the joint, leading to worsening symptoms.
While diet may help with weight loss, diet can also play a key role in reducing pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Foods that reduce inflammation and promote joint health include but are not limited to: fish, nuts or seeds, fruits and vegetables, beans, olive oil, and whole grains. In addition, it may be beneficial for people with arthritis symptoms to avoid certain foods such as nightshade vegetables, which some studies have linked with arthritis pain.
Beginning or maintaining a regular, low-impact exercise routine will strengthen joint muscles and loosen soft tissue, helping reduce the physical strain on joints which can lead to osteoarthritis. Walking, cycling, and swimming are all generally low-impact, joint-friendly physical activities. Talk with your doctor before making any dietary changes or beginning an exercise routine.
While maintaining a healthy weight, choosing a healthier diet, and regular exercise cannot guarantee a person will not develop osteoarthritis, these lifestyle choices can slow the progression of the condition and relieve early symptoms of the disease.
In addition, physical therapy can sometimes help patients suffering from osteoarthritis symptoms find pain relief and enjoy increased mobility, while occupational therapy may offer practical advice on managing daily life in a way that protects joints from further damage.
If you are already experiencing osteoarthritis symptoms, and physical therapy or regular exercise are not helping, consider trying an over-the-counter pain medication or talk with your doctor about a pain-relieving prescription medication.
Medications That Reduce Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Analgesics such as acetaminophen and narcotics containing oxycodone may help to reduce pain, but these drugs will have no effect on inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen reduce both pain and inflammation, making NSAIDs generally more effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms.
If you are suffering from back pain or sciatica related to osteoarthritis in the spine, and over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatories are not helping, your doctor may suggest an Epidural Steroid Injection. This treatment delivers strong, targeted medicine that reduces inflammation and pressure on the nerves causing the pain.
Innovative Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Depending on the nature and severity of the osteoarthritis, over-the-counter medications and steroid injections may not be enough to relieve symptoms. Patients in this situation may consider one of the following cutting-edge, minimally-invasive treatment options:
(PRP) — Concentrated blood platelets, safely harvested from the patient receiving treatment, help enhance the body’s regenerative capabilities. Commonly used to speed recovery from injury or surgery, because of the abundance of growth factors in the concentrated plasma.
Facet Block Injection — Relieves the pain and inflammation in the joints between the vertebrae and the spine allowing the spine to bend, flex, and twist without pain.
SCT — A cutting-edge non-surgical treatment proven to significantly reduce pain, especially joint pain caused by osteoarthritis.
As more patients discover the long-term, pain-relieving benefits of ell, this modern, minimally-invasive pain treatment continues to prove effective in delivering outstanding results, including reduced pain, improved joint function, and a better overall quality of life. This is especially true for patients who had been living with knee, hip, or shoulder pain due to osteoarthritis.
While many physicians still recommend surgical intervention, many joint surgeries are invasive and destructive; and, even if the surgery is “successful,” this can lead to greater and more prolonged pain for the patient. While joint replacement surgery may sometimes be necessary in advanced cases, other comparably-effective, minimally-invasive treatments, such as SCT – regenerative medicine, are often a much better option to try before going “under the knife.”
SCT is completed on a same-day, outpatient treatment basis. Many patients report noticeable improvements in pain level and joint function in a few short weeks. Better still, these patients continue to enjoy increased joint function and reduced pain for months or even years after SCT. If you are suffering from joint pain and decreased function due to osteoarthritis, you owe it to yourself to see if regenerative medicine or another cutting-edge minimally-invasive medical treatment for osteoarthritis is right for you.
Atlanta Spine Specialists is dedicated to helping patients get “Back to Life!” We work with Osteoarthritis patients every day, helping them find relief through innovative and effective pain treatment. Take the first step to a life free of pain: Click here to schedule an appointment to see if our cutting-edge osteoarthritis treatments are a good fit for you.