Are your joints starting to tell you that you’ve abused them a bit too much? Has there been too much jogging on asphalt, full-contact sports or high-impact aerobics? If your knees or hips are starting to ache and age, you’re not alone.
Arthritis is a very common condition for men and women; it affects millions of people as they age. As we all get older, the wear and tear that we put on our bodies takes a toll, and the cartilage wears out in certain joints, especially in joints that we use most often, like the hip and knee.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. In Western countries, the majority of people have OA by the age of 65, and the number goes up as ages go up. Your risk also increases if you were active or were injured playing sports or in an accident.
When the cartilage in your hips and knees starts to wear out, you begin to have stiffness, pain and eventually a lack of mobility and maybe even immobility.
What Can You Do About Arthritis?
One thing you can do to try to control your risk of arthritis as you age is to control your risk factors. These include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Muscle weakness
- Repetitive mechanical stress
- Joint infections
What this means is that exercising regularly, staying healthy, eating a good diet and stretching regularly are all ways to try and stave off arthritis. Weight lifting to increase your body’s muscle is also a good idea.
What About When It’s Too Late?
So you’ve lived a healthy life and you still find your knees and hips aching. It happens. What treatments are available to you? Let’s take a look at the popular options. First, the non-drug treatments:
- Exercise: strength training, range of motion (like yoga) and tai chi exercises can help with pain and physical function. Water-based exercises are also recommended.
- Weight loss: Weight loss puts less strain on joints and reduces pain.
- Balneotherapy: The practice of soaking in warm mineral springs can help alleviate pain.
- Tylenol: This is often the first drug tried for mild-to-moderate hip and knee pain from arthritis. It does have side effects, however.
- Topical NSAIDS: these are creams that have the same medications as Tylenol or ibuprofen. They are safer than oral medications but can cause skin irritation and are often less effective.
- Corticosteroid injections: Steroid injections directly into the joint can help with pain in the short term, though the effect often only lasts a few weeks.
Finally, some people will resort to surgeries to “clean up” the joint with a saline wash or to replace the knee.
But what if there were another way? Recently, a promising new treatment has begun being practiced that many patients and doctors are excited about: BMAC injections.
What is BMAC?
“BMAC” stands for “Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate” and is the term that doctors use for the goo that they make by taking bone marrow from your own body and combining it with fat cells into a concentrate that they then reinject into your damaged joint.
In the procedure, which is done as an outpatient, a doctor will extract a small number of bone marrow cells from your pelvis and spin them in a centrifuge to create a powerful concentrate.
The concentrate, along with the fat cells, are then reinjected. The process takes between 60 and 90 minutes.
How does it work?
Once they are in your body, the stem cells get to work. Your bone marrow contains a rich reservoir of pluripotent cells that can replicate themselves into many different kinds of tissue: any kind your body needs to heal itself.
When your body is injured, sometimes the regenerative cells in the area aren’t enough. When you receive a stem cell concentrate injection, you’re getting an injection of reinforcement cells that provide back-up to the cells already there. They get to work helping to heal the damaged cartilage.
The research on this new type of injection shows very promising results in both the hip and knee area in both reducing swelling, relieving pain and healing of both cartilage and bone.
Very Promising New Treatment
The U.S. National Institutes of Health have signed off on the procedure as very promising, and more clinics and orthopedists are beginning to offer the injections. If you have old and creaky knees and hips, you may want to look into this new treatment!