Conditions > Osteoarthritis
Degenerative Osteoarthritis Treatment
Osteoarthritis is the most popular form of arthritis.
It is caused by a “perfect storm” of damaged ligaments, excess weight, and genetic predisposition.
The telltale sign of osteoarthritis is pain, especially when you wake up in the morning. Morning pain goes away within 30 minutes.
Treatment for osteoarthritis is possible without drugs, steroid injections, and surgery, all of which do more harm than good.
Treatment should include a combination of nutritional changes, weight loss, osteopathic manipulation, acupuncture, and prolotherapy and PRP injections.
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What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease and the most popular form of arthritis. Joints affected by osteoarthritis deteriorate over time. This is a painful process and most often occurs in joints found in your knees, hips, and hands.
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you probably wake up each morning with very sore joints. The pain goes away as you start moving and bringing blood into the joint area. So what can you do to treat this painful disease?
What causes osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by a combination – a perfect storm – of several factors:
Damaged ligaments and osteoarthritis
Injuries are unavoidable. But not all injuries are equal. An injury that damages a ligament may eventually contribute to osteoarthritis.
Your ligament is the tissue that holds two bones together. Common injuries that can cause ligament damage include car accidents (whiplash), sports injuries, even everyday activities like carrying groceries.
When you weaken or damage your ligament, it loses strength. Under the right circumstances, bones being held by the damaged ligament shift ever so slightly and the contact area of the two bones shifts. When that happens, the bones are no longer aligned and the wear on the meniscus changes.
After days, weeks, months, and years, this force starts to wear down inappropriately. When that happens, you can experience extra bone growth, changes to the blood flow, rapid wearing of cartilage, tendon inflammation, and irritated muscles.
Excess weight contributes to osteoarthritis
A ligamentous injury doesn’t guarantee osteoarthritis. But if you have suffered a ligamentous injury and are overweight, you increase your chances of osteoarthritis.
Excess body weight can overload joints. If you have a misaligned joint from a previous ligament injury, obesity increases the progression of osteoarthritis. But it turns out excess weight carries hidden risks that go beyond overloading joints.
Excess weight is typically accompanied by a diet high in fat. It turns out that poor diet creates low-level inflammation in your body, which further damages your joints. It is still unclear exactly how obesity and joint damage are related, but diet improvements do slow this progression of joint degeneration.
Your genes and osteoarthritis
The third factor contributing to osteoarthritis is genes. Although osteoarthritis is still largely a medical mystery, there are clear studies that indicate a family history of osteoarthritis increases your risk of developing the disease later in life.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis
One of the most common telltale signs of osteoarthritis is joint pain. Quite simply, your joints hurt.
Morning pain occurs when you get up. The pain dissipates as you begin to move around, typically within 30 minutes.
Different types of arthritis can often be distinguished by how long you experience morning pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis typically lasts less than 30 minutes while morning pain from rheumatoid arthritis typically lasts more than 45 minutes.
Natural osteoarthritis treatments
Currently, there are no treatments to stop the progression of osteoarthritis. But there are a number of natural treatments to relieve the pain and slow the degeneration process.
When considering how to best treat osteoarthritis, your best bet is to stabilize the joints without causing further joint damage. Natural osteoarthritis treatments should include a combination of the following:
Nutritional changes and weight loss
Prolotherapy and PRP injections
What should I avoid?
By the time joint pain shows up, most people assume it’s just “old age”. This is when anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil and Motrin) and corticosteroid injections are most likely to be recommended. Think twice before saying yes!
These two common treatments for osteoarthritis, although effective at reducing pain in the short term, have long-term negative side effects.
Steroid injections for osteoarthritis don’t work
Steroids are toxic to cartilage. In a recent study, steroid shots for knee pain were found to increase cartilage loss without providing any significant health benefits. I’m always hesitant to put steroids into a joint unless absolutely necessary for pain relief. It can lead to bigger problems down the road and, more importantly, steroid injections don’t seem to work.
Avoid prolonged use of anti-inflammatories
Over time, anti-inflammatory drugs can weaken the kidneys, the liver, and damage the stomach. More alarming is their effect on the body’s natural healing process, which starts with inflammation. In cases of joint pain, anti-inflammatories block your body’s healing process.
Nutritional changes to help osteoarthritis pain
There are two reasons why diet changes are the first recommendation most doctors give to their patients: a healthy diet reduces inflammation of the joints and helps maintain a healthy weight.
A balanced diet of vegetables (especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage), whole grains, fruits, and legumes helps reduce the overall inflammation in your body, and the lack of processed and fatty foods helps you to lose excess weight. Remember, excess weight is one of the three factors observed in osteoarthritis causes.
Osteopathic manipulation for osteoarthritis
Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT) are gentle adjustments of your musculoskeletal structures. In joints affected by osteoarthritis, a misalignment can cause uneven wear and account for much of the pain you experience.
OMT is a natural way to correct this misalignment. During treatment, an osteopath uses her hands to gently guide the bones surrounding the joint back into alignment. This isn’t twisting and cracking and popping which you may have come to associate with the world “alignment”.
OMT is a gentle treatment which can have profound results when combined with other natural treatments such as acupuncture and prolotherapy.
Acupuncture for osteoarthritis
Acupuncture treatments stabilize structures around the arthritic joint by increasing blood flow along with all of its healing properties to the painful joint. Acupuncture needles also activate your body’s endorphins, or “painkillers”, which help reduce the feeling of pain in your joints.
Prolotherapy for osteoarthritis
Once we’re able to realign the joints and reduce pain, what can we do to stabilize the arthritic joint?
Prolotherapy is a regenerative treatment that regenerates damaged ligaments responsible for structural imbalances of the joint. The idea here is that by strengthening the ligament, the stability of the joint improves.
Prolotherapy is an injection treatment. The injections into the ligament immediately result in inflammation at the injection site. This is good inflammation and indicates the body has begun the healing process of laying down new and healthy tissue.
Prolotherapy is a natural treatment and works best when combined with acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation, and of course, nutritional changes. If the body is not healthy enough to heal itself, the healing triggered by a prolotherapy treatment will be limited.
A combination of these treatments can be helpful for all types of joint pain. Remember that any successful treatment program starts with you and your healthcare provider taking time to figure out what structures are causing the pain, and outlining a plan to take care of those structures.