Cortisone: Is It Making Your Joints Worse?
Cortisone injections are a highly popular treatment for a wide range of diseases that cause joint pain and other debilitating conditions. Traditionally, when a patient complains of joint or tendon pain, the physician may draw a sample of joint fluid to test for the cause of joint inflammation and then order an x-ray, CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound test to determine the amount of joint damage. Depending on the severity of the injury, conventional treatments such as cortisone injections are then typically recommended. Sounds like a common sense course of action, right? Well, yes and no. While cortisone can supply short-term relief from pain and inflammation, it can actually cause even more damage.
What exactly is cortisone?
Cortisone is a synthetic version of cortisol, the primary stress hormone in the human body. When injected locally into damaged joints it inhibits the action of inflammatory cytokines – proteins that are secreted as part of the immune system – to reduce pain and swelling.
However, cortisone is powerful and it’s only safe to give three or four injections annually, depending on the concentration. Much more than that and the patient runs the risk of some serious side effects, such as:
- Increased tissue damage
- Cartilage damage
- Joint infection
- Weakened or ruptured tendons
- Whitening or lightening of the skin
Regenerative medicine therapies: The safe, effective cortisone alternative
Regenerative medicine is a relatively new therapeutic approach that replaces or restores damaged tissue by stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms. Simply put, the goal is to restore form and function by relying on the body’s ability to heal itself.
Regenerative medicine holds the potential to find cures, improve care outcomes, and boost quality of life. The tools to reach these goals are diverse. They’re often based on various types of stem cells — special cells that can divide and multiply to produce any type of the more specialized cells in the body, and can be coaxed to promote body healing.
The most common regenerative medicine injections currently used include:
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP): Blood drawn from the patient is spun down to separate its components, including platelets which produce a variety of growth factors at the site of tissue damage. These growth factors attract and promote the growth of stem cells that help heal the damaged tissue.
Umbilical Cord (Wharton’s Jelly) Growth Factors: Proteins that are derived from amniotic fluid contain concentrated growth factors that are injected into the affected site to stimulate the growth of new cells and restore tissue in the damaged area.
All three of these approaches to healing orthopedic injuries and treating osteoarthritis and other diseases stimulate your body to heal itself faster than it would normally.
Think of the difference between cortisone injections and regenerative medicine this way: Cortisone treats the symptoms — pain and inflammation. Regenerative therapies treat the cause, encouraging tissue restoration and regeneration. Which sounds like a better approach to you? To learn more, contact the regenerative medicine specialists here at Maragal Medical.