Dear Dr. Raff,
I am 70 years old and have tremendous pain in my knee and hip. My orthopedist says I need a joint replacement, but I dislike surgery. Are there any other alternatives?
This is an important question especially for those over 60 years – old who suffer from severe ankle, knee, hip, lower back, neck, shoulder, elbows or any other joint pain and limited motion. Joint replacement surgery is an option for improving mobility and reducing pain. However, in spite of technical improvements, it still remains major surgery with a potential for complications and serious risks. The recovery time can often be several months or longer.
Yes, there is an alternative treatment. Due to the fact, that joints and ligaments have the least blood supply of any body tissue, the healing process from the injury or wear and tear is minimal. Doctors develop a treatment called prolotherapy for proliferation, which helps improve the blood flow to injured areas. The two forms of treatment are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and whole blood. PRP is a treatment where we take some of the patient’s own blood and separate out some of its components. The components are injected back into the damaged areas, which help stimulate more effective blood flow. An even more effective treatment is extracting stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and fatty tissues, and then reinjecting them into damaged joints or ligaments.
Stem cells provide a much more powerful healing force especially for older patients or more severe situations, and it usually takes one treatment to alleviate the pain and improve mobility. Whole blood or PRP can be used for less severe cases but may require several treatments depending upon the patient’s response.
Both treatments are outpatient or office procedures which are extremely safe and are increasingly used to help avoid the major surgery of joint replacement.