We get it, growing old can have its challenges. Our joints can take on much of the usual wear and tear of daily activities. These pains can be exacerbated when we start achieving our goals of increased activities.
What does joint pain really mean? Let’s review what the joints are and where the pain can originate from. For the purposes of this blog, we will only focus on the movable joints in the extremities. These joints are held together by ligaments. Ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. The majority of sprains and strains in the joints is due to ligament damage. For more in-depth joint information Crash Course has a great video.
Ligaments are important to the integrity of the joints as a stabilizing structure below the muscles. However, due to the nature of the locations of the ligaments they have very little blood supply. This lack of blood supply makes ligament healing slower as the healing chemicals are carried in the blood supply.
Continued trauma, wear and tear to the injured joints can make the ligaments weaker and the joint will subsequently become more lax. Many times providers will recommend a variety of modalities for healing, these can include physical therapy, anti inflammatory injections, medications, and others. These all have pros and cons. Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around the joint and in many cases when followed as directed can reduce the joint pain and improve joint function. Physical therapy will not focus on the ligament and tendon damage. Anti-inflammatory injections, usually corticosteroids, will help with acute inflammation and pain, but will not help with long term healing. Other medications can also offer a variety of pain relief.
Naturopathic physicians are trained to identify and treat the cause. In the case of joint weakness and laxity the cause is usually stressed ligaments that are struggling to get proper nutrition to heal. Prolotherapy is one treatment that focuses on strengthening the connective tissue that does not get as much blood supply. This happens in a few ways. The injection is usually a mixture of anesthetic and dextrose (a sugar), what this does is stimulate the immune system to focus on the area injected, promote the healing components of the blood to start remodeling the ligaments and strengthen them.
After your injection you may have some soreness for a day or two, then it will take a couple of weeks before you notice any benefits as the healing process continues. For many people, they will have a noticeable improvement within a month and minimal side effects. After a month, another session may be required.
For more information, this is an informative website from the University of Pittsburgh.
If you are experiencing weak and creaky joints, schedule an appointment to find out if prolotherapy is a good treatment option for you.