Have you ever wondered why so many adults literally run into problems with their knees later on in life?
It’s almost as if your body waits until you finally have more free time and less to worry about in life and then, all of a sudden, that’s when your knees decide they don’t want to work the same way they’ve always worked for you.
But what if we told you there is a reason why knee pain is such a common problem. More importantly, if left untreated, the things that often lead to knee pain can mess up a lot of your plans in your golden years.
So, if you’ve been dealing with problems in your knees, why not figure out the source of your pain and how to prevent that pain from holding you back for the rest of your life?
That’s why we’ve put together some information that can educate you about an alternative solution for knee pain relief that you might not have heard about before—a solution that doesn’t involve surgery or pain medications. Those are the last options we would want you to consider if your goal is to get back to doing the active things you love.
In this article, we are going to describe why regenerative medicine treatments like prolotherapy, PRP and stem cell treatments could be superior treatments for longterm pain relief and non-surgical healing. We’ll also talk about some of the best exercises for knee pain because, once you find relief, it’s important to maintain that relief.
Again, you might be thinking that surgery or pain medications are your best options for getting back on the hiking trail or doing some of the rigorous exercises you’ve always loved doing. But let’s look at what those options really do for you and why you might want to consider some better alternatives.
Conventional treatments for knee pain
Most doctors will not talk about prolotherapy and other regenerative medicine treatments. Why? It’s simply because they’re not familiar with these therapies.
The truth is that traditional treatments for knee pain don’t offer great results. Believe it or not, knee osteoarthritis can’t be cured or reversed by traditional knee pain treatments. That’s because the goal of these conventional therapies is to reduce knee pain without treating the root cause of the symptoms.
Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) are usually the first-line of treatment offered by doctors to people with knee pain.
These drugs can cause liver and kidney damage if taken for the longterm. They can also cause various side effects like upset stomach, bleeding problems and problems with the heart and circulation.
In fact, anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen and Naproxen have a “black box warning” on the them for a reason. A black box warning is the FDA’s most stringent warning for drugs and medical devices on the market, and black box warnings alert the public and healthcare providers to serious side effects, such as injury or death.
Stronger pain medications like prescription opioids carry a risk of dependency and other side effects.
Alternatively, a lot of doctors advise physical therapy to help patients with knee pain get some relief.
Exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, increase strength and flexibility, and reduce pain. Regular gentle exercises like walking and swimming that you do on your own are often equally effective as physical therapy.
But here’s the thing: While exercise strengthens the muscles, it does not reverse or treat damage to cartilage, tendons and ligaments. The cartilage, tendons and ligaments in your body are supporting structures that will often become weakened and damaged in people with knee pain, and that damage can lead to joint damage and arthritis.
When pain medications and physical therapy don’t help, doctors typically advise cortisone injections. But you can only get three to four injections a year and cortisone (steroid) injections actually destroy cartilage.
And get this. Over time, the shots can actually worsen the joint damage. Lubrication injections like hyaluronic acid have not consistently shown great results either.
The last resort is usually a total knee replacement surgery. It’s major surgery with a tough rehab, and it comes with considerable surgical risks like infection and blood clots. Over time, the artificial joint can wear out or become loose and need replacement.
Regenerative medicine injections, on the other hand, are safe, effective, minimally invasive, and they address the cause of your knee pain naturally.
Prolotherapy and PRP for sports injuries
So if prolotherapy and PRP are so effective, why does it seem like more people aren’t talking about it? We’re not sure about that part. But we do know that more and more people in the public eye are turning to this regenerative medicine treatment because of the longterm benefits.
You might be surprised to learn that many of your favorite elite athletes are increasingly turning to prolotherapy and PRP to heal sports injuries. These are people whose careers depend on getting back to training and competing as soon as possible. And they’re able to afford the best knee pain relief money can buy.
So, the fact that they’re choosing regenerative medicine injections says a lot. From Kobe Bryant to Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal to Alex Rodriguez, they’ve all used regenerative therapies at some point in their careers to heal from knee injuries.
What is prolotherapy?
So what is prolotherapy? Prolotherapy is a non-surgical, minimally-invasive regenerative medicine treatment. It involves the injection of an irritant (usually dextrose which is a type of sugar) into the knee joint.
Think about those sugar scrubs and exfoliating products that gently irritate your skin in order to get new skin cells and make your face glow. That’s kinda like what prolotherapy does.
The principle behind prolotherapy is that the body responds to stimuli. What the injection does is it prompts the body to heal itself and get new cells. It’s a natural way to address the root cause of knee pain.
The prolotherapy treatment does not simply mask your symptoms to give you knee pain relief. It heals the damage in the tendons, ligaments and muscles that is causing your pain.
Most people need three to eight treatments of prolotherapy spaced out about two to four weeks apart. Symptoms of knee pain gradually improve as the damaged soft tissue in the joint becomes stronger and more flexible.
So what is PRP?
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) shots are a type of regenerative medicine. But we’re able to use your own blood to help with healing wounds after surgery, healing cartilage and healing torn tendons.
We simply draw your blood in the office and get your platelets. These cells are not only important for preventing blood clots, but they’re also the ones that allow you to heal.
For example, when you cut your finger, have you ever noticed that your skin automatically heals? That’s because your platelets signal new skin cells and new fat tissue to the body.
Once platelets are in the area that’s being treated, they break down and release growth factors that help cells repair themselves and trigger your body’s healing.
Best exercises for knee pain
Now that we’ve addressed the best treatment for knee pain, what can you do to maintain your active lifestyle once your body recovers?
It might be tempting to avoid exercise when you’ve dealt with knee pain in the past, but this is not a good solution.
Along with regenerative medicine injections, doing knee strengthening exercises can help make the muscles surrounding the joint stronger. These types of exercises will continue to support the knee and prevent injury.
Knee exercises can also help alleviate strain on the joint and allow you to become more active.
We asked our kinesiologists to offer some of the best exercises they use with our patients, and here are the top exercises they recommend:
- Hip adduction squeeze: Place a rolled-up towel, ball or pillow between your knees and press your knees together so that you squeeze the object firmly. Do two sets of 10 reps once a day.
- Clamshell: While lying on your side with your knees bent, raise your top knee upwards while keeping your feet in contact the entire time. Lower your back down and repeat. Do not let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement. Do three sets of 10 reps once a day.
Stretching is also key when it comes to alleviating knee pain because, if the muscles are tight, the joints become less mobile and that can cause more pain.
Our kinesiologists recommend the following stretches:
- Hamstring stretch
- Quadricep stretch
- Leg abduction with elastic band
- Wall sit
As you can see, if you’ve been struggling with knee pain and conventional treatments haven’t helped, surgery may not be the only option you have.
Consider regenerative medicine injections. They have a good safety record (the earliest form of prolotherapy was used by Hippocrates in 400 B.C.). They can help you avoid surgery, reduce the need for medications and steroid shots, and greatly improve your quality of life by giving you relief from knee pain.