I live in Portland, OR where there is a Chiropractor, Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist, Physical Therapist and Personal Trainer on nearly every corner. It’s honestly like Starbucks around here for Complementary/Alternative Medicine practitioners.
I am the end of the road doctor for most of my patients. As you can imagine, if they live here, they’ve had access to and worked their way through the circuit of practitioners before they get to me. Many come from all over the country and Canada even! They’ve usually done their due diligence with all of the above mentioned practitioners and, if they end up in my office, they’ve likely failed care with all/most of it. They still have pain. Many have already failed cortisone injection and most are savvy enough to avoid them. They are looking for hope and they want out of pain. I am often the last stop before surgery or complete loss of hope.
You can imagine the responsibility that I feel at times. My average patient has spent a good amount of time and money working with some of the most talented doctors and practitioners in the city and for whatever reason those treatments have not worked. Now they are seeking out my services to get them out of pain. Sadly, many have been told that there is nothing that can be done by their orthopedists or that surgery is their only option.
People who come into my office are either out of options, have no desire to have their spines or joints cut open and/or know that cortisone is temporary and damaging to their tissues.
I’ll tell you what I see in many of these patients. I see the downward spiral of pain that has taken over their lives. I know this downward spiral well as I have been on it myself in the past. You may see yourself in this description or you may see a loved one.
It starts with a joint injury. It could be a non-traumatic injury or a very traumatic injury. This joint injury either completely derails the person immediately, or it sort of festers and nags at them for years. Sometimes this pain goes on for decades. Let’s use a knee injury as an example.
The knee pain becomes such that simply getting around normally becomes difficult. Getting up and down becomes painful, overdoing it causes pain, and exercising even normally causes pain. The person basically stops moving much. They stop getting up and down so much, they stop dancing, they stop exercising, they stop playing, they just stop.
This is not only a stop in movement but in quality of life. If they are like me, a mover and shaker, they stop moving and shaking so much. You can imagine what not being able to move does to a “mover”. People who are hyperkinetic (need to move to often to feel better) often get very depressed when they can no longer move in the fashion they are acustomed. It changes their lives significantly.
Without movement your blood, your neurotransmitters, your hormones and your metabolism all become sluggish and imbalanced. This leads to further pain and lowered mood states.
If the pain really roots itself into your nervous system, for various reasons, your pain begins to “wind up”. It’s called Central Sensitization. Basically, your nervous system becomes primed for pain. So now something as simple as a hug can cause you pain. There is a neurological as well as immunological component to this phenomenon, but it is not uncommon and it is a terrible state to be in. I personally feel that there is a genetic and epigenetic component to this “wind up pain” phenomenon as well.
Fast forward a couple of years or decades and this patient has put on a few pounds a year. It may be slow, it creeps up and doesn’t seem to be terribly noticed outright. However, the next time they check, they are 20-60+ pounds overweight. The negative consequences of this extra weight on that bad knee are enormous. Not only does this extra weight cause biomechanical damage to that poor knee (every extra pound of weight on the body is equal to 5-7 pounds on that knee), but the metabolic consequences are even more dire.
Those extra 20-60+ pounds take a beating on your blood sugar handling. Having imbalanced blood sugars and high serum insulin is a fast-track ticket to inflammation, aging, disease and cancer. Those fat cells are working as little inflammation factories pumping out a biochemical cocktail that drive further inflammation and pain.
Being sedentary drives pain. Motion is lotion, for many reasons, and lack of motion amounts to more pain.
Carrying that extra weight around, being more sedentary, having imbalanced blood sugars and hormones finally will take its toll. Now I have a patient in front of me who has high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or frank diabetes, cholesterol and blood lipid issues, chronic inflammation and/or depression, to name a few.
And it all started with that knee injury how ever many years back. That knee injury derailed this person just enough to send their entire life into a downward spiral of pain. It may be slow, it may be fast, but the end-stage consequences can be enormous. Biomechanically they are worse for the wear because they have not been using their joints as much and so all of their joints, body wide, begin to atrophy and age and become arthritic faster. Biochemically their metabolisms can become permanently altered and they are now homeostatically very unsound. Basically, they become sick with a myriad of conditions that, in my opinion, all stem from inactivity at it’s core.
If you get to the root, really talk to the patient and find out the beginning of their whole pain story, it often started with that knee (or hip or ankle or shoulder or low back pain, etc).
Regenerative medicine can not only significantly reduce this patient’s pain, but significantly improve their quality of life. Through regenerative injection therapies like prolotherapy, platelet rich plasma and stem cell therapies, coupled with solid Naturopathic functional regenerative care, we give people their lives back. This is what we love to do as physicians! Take that knee out of pain, get that patient moving again and get their overall health in order so that they can start living their lives again.
If this resonates with you, please get in touch. Share it with someone whom it may help. Life is too short to live with pain.
You likely have questions. I have compiled a cheat sheet with all of the answers to all of the most common questions that I’ve encountered in the past decade of practice. If you want to know more, and would like to find a practitioner in your area, be sure to grab my Insider’s Guide to Prolotherapy and PRP within my PRP 101 School HERE!
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