Naturopathic Physician Investigates Joint Pain

Aches and pains stopping your summer activities?

Hikers near lakeThis is the time of year where, for many, those chronic lingering joint pains show their face in full force. Can’t hike like you used to without knee pain? Shoulders too sore to go rafting or rock-climbing with friends? Maybe it’s even as simple as taking a week for your back to recover from a few nights camping.

Whatever aches and pains are stopping you, let’s take a careful look at them together.

Why do my joints ache?

Many get diagnosed with Osteoarthritis, particularly those over 50 years of age. It’s extremely common, and is not treated preventively in the standard medical paradigm.

With tens of millions affected by OA in the U.S. alone, it is unfortunate that patients are often only recommended physical therapy then non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as Ibuprofen) as the only pre-surgical measures.  This leaves many feeling dissatisfied with their treatment and is a realm where alternative medicine shines.

An early step in a preventive plan would be assessment of any inflammatory markers that could be contributing to, or worsening, joint inflammation and injury. Depending on your history and family history, a Naturopathic Physician can identify which labs are right for you.

What are some natural care options?

Starting physical therapy, Chiropractic care, acupuncture or massage are all well researched to be effective treatment measures for OA and other chronic pains and injury.  Some patients find one modality to be most effective for them, while others find a positive synergistic approach in more than one (for example combining Chiropractic and massage).  All of these modalities, in their own way, stimulate healing and recovery via increased circulation, improved immune system response and better range of motion of affected joints.

In addition to addressing any significant lab findings, your Naturopathic Physician can make nutritional and supplemental recommendations based on your current diet and needs. Other factors include:

  • Body composition
  • Presence of hormone deficiencies
  • Low bone mineral density (osteopenia and osteoporosis).

Physical exercise, to your ability, should be continued as being sedentary can lead to stagnation and slowed healing response.

What if that still isn’t enough?

swimmerA careful assessment of how you move your body (joints separately, and also all together) is an important aspect of how you are going to be “wearing down” your joints. For example, if there is weakness in the back, lower core, knees or ankles, other nearby joints are often affected as a result.

Beyond all the above measures, sometimes there is still a lingering (nagging, patients often describe) pain deep within a joint. I explain this common finding to patients stemming from a natural lack of blood vessels within the joint itself. Without a direct blood supply, tissue is slower to heal than other areas (muscles, for example).

What are regenerative injections?

This is often an excellent time to consider regenerative injection therapies. The most common types are Prolotherapy and Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections (PRP).  They both work by stimulating the immune system to treat the area injected as if it were a new injury- recruiting all the elements needed for natural tissue recovery and healing.  This involves a thorough assessment, so that the performing provider can identify specifically all the structures which may need to be treated. No two people are the same, and no two painful shoulders or knees are the same.

Once a comprehensive evaluation and treatment is performed, patients often continue their exercise, specific recovery nutrition and physical medicine care (such as acupuncture or physical therapy) while the injections do their work, over a course of weeks.

Case Study

A recent patient came to Dr. Cortal, specifically for evaluation for prolotherapy. She had been to 7 other doctors and still experienced shoulder pain which was stopping her from her hobbies and work.  After careful history and examination, there were areas of tendon injury, joint inflammation and instability found.  After two treatments with prolotherapy, her pain and instability completely resolved and she was very happy to be returning to the activities she loved.

Naturopathic solutions can be used for all types of joint pain.

Natural medicine and regenerative injection therapies can very well assist patients with any joint pain they are encountering, such as:

If you have been waiting months (or years!) hoping some nagging pain will just disappear someday, stop waiting and let us help.  There is nothing more gratifying in our work than assisting someone in being able to return to work, activities of interest and just life in general!

Angela CortalDr. Angela Cortal is a Naturopathic Physician who focuses on Regenerative Injection Therapy (Prolotherapy and Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections) and integrates this into her Naturopathic clinical practice.  She loves working with patients at Heart Spring Health in Portland, Oregon, and sees phenomenal recoveries from past injuries, degenerative joint conditions and chronic pain or instability.