Knee Injury Recovery - Combining Classical & Modern Approaches
Guest post by Dr. Brandt of thriveMD based in Vail, Colorado
Knee pain and knee injuries are the most common condition we treat. We also treat most joint, disc, tendon and soft tissue injuries, with back pain becoming more and more common; yet, autologous adult stem cell therapy for knees is the number one procedure we do at our clinics in Vail and Denver. The years of treating knee injuries have given us a unique overview of treatments that work.
The patients tend to be active people who engage in sporting activities that cause strain to the knees - such as CrossFit, running, skiing, or even adventure travel. When recovering, you are eager to return to activity without limitations. We find that the most effective management consists of a combination of self-treatment and awareness, thoughtful use of traditional medical treatments, and combining with the new state-of-the-art regenerative medicine procedures.
Viable Self Treatment Options
With minor injuries or mild pain, you can often recover on your own and avoid seeing a doctor. With major injuries and severe pain, things you’ll do on your own can be a key complement to professional medical treatment.
So you may wonder, how do I know when to seek out professional medical help? If your pain is quickly alleviated with standard rest, ice, heat, and other conservative care methods, and you have a thorough understanding of the injury, dealing with a knee injury on your own is a reasonable initial plan. If the pain or limitations persist, such as loss of range of motion or instability, you should seek the opinion of a medical professional.
Giving your body a break to recover may be all that is needed - whether it’s one long break, or a new weekly recovery routine. To determine the appropriate plan of action, be cognizant of the signs and symptoms that your body is experiencing. Do not wait until you feel intense pain or weakness, that is often a signal that the injury requires medical attention. Be aware of the symptoms that come prior to pain, such as stiffness, loss of range of motion, or fatigue. At the same time, do not rely on rest as a universal solution.
For injuries such as ligament or tendon tears, rest followed by an early return to activity without professional treatment may even make the injury worse. For those looking to avoid invasive surgery, early intervention with regenerative therapies can often lead to less invasive treatment options and quicker return to activity.
Learn About Physiology
Do not wait until you become injured or until your injury becomes worse to educate yourself on the common injuries of your sport. Learn how your body works, especially when exposed to stress and strain-specific to your favorite activity.
For CrossFit, you will greatly benefit from understanding the physiology of low back, shoulder, and knees. Regarding just the knees, you’ll benefit from understanding the anatomy of the joint and mechanics of the common injuries and symptoms of a new injury. This will help you identify a probable diagnosis earlier, make good treatment decisions, and hopefully avoid further damage. It will also help you develop a better understanding of the proper mechanics in your lifting routine.
Do the Activity Better
Many activities are good for your knees when done correctly and are only harmful when done improperly. Focus on proper posture and positioning of the knees, avoiding increases in intensity when something seems off, and prioritizing good alignment.
Invest Time in Prevention & Prehab
We see improved treatment outcomes, as well as a decreased likelihood of a new injury, in athletes who consciously choose activities with knee health in mind. If you follow a rigorous workout routine, put at least one day a week into an activity such as swimming, cycling, yoga, or pilates that are focused on stretching and decreased impact to the knee. Injuries will become less likely and your crossfit performance will improve.
If you already suffer from an injury and have a knee surgery scheduled, develop a prehab routine of targeted workouts geared to your recovery. This may help you expedite your rehab progress.
Get Multiple Opinions
You may want to consider getting more than one medical opinion on your treatment options, should an injury occur. You will have the ultimate decision on which direction to go with your care. Think for yourself and compare pros & cons of the different treatment options offered to you. Armed with the knowledge of the physiology and anatomy of the knee, and the risks and benefits of the different treatment options, you can then make an informed decision.
Pros & Cons of the Most Common Medical Knee Treatments
Physical Therapy, Acupuncture and Massage for Knee Injuries
These treatments tend to help with alignment, strength, blood flow, and inflammation. They often also teach you about the physiology of your knee. With some minor injuries that have not progressed yet, these therapies can even help solve the problem. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage often work well in combination and help speed recovery.
With major injuries, such as large ligament or meniscus tears, these therapies will not repair the damaged soft tissue. Do not limit yourself to these conservative therapies if your problems are not significantly improving or are worsening.
Surgical Knee Repair and Reconstruction
Surgery can lead to major improvements in injuries requiring a surgical treatment. Surgery has the potential to repair fully torn ligaments, debride a torn meniscus or even transplant a new meniscus. Orthopedic knee surgery has improved dramatically over the years. Research in the field of sports medicine has been significant and continues to improve every year.
Knee surgery is a fairly invasive treatment option. We recommend looking into minimally invasive treatment options, even if you are told by your surgeon that surgery is the best option. Typically these invasive surgeries require being out of work, not just CrossFit exercise, for an extended period of time. You may also have a significant amount of physical therapy and rehab before returning to sport. Surgical complications that lead to additional surgery or ongoing pain are not uncommon. Surgical modifications can also lead to increased rates of arthritis and new wear and tear.
What Your Own Adult Stem Cells Can Do for Knee Injury Recovery
Regenerative medicine and the use of autologous adult stem cells has the ability to repair damaged soft tissue and cartilage in the knee during a minimally invasive procedure. Stem cells are harvested from your own tissue stores and then isolated, consolidated, and re-injected during a three-hour procedure.
For our patients, stem cell therapy for knee injuries is an excellent treatment option for both acute injuries and chronic pain. Conditions that typically respond well include partial ACL tears, certain meniscus tears, thinning of articular cartilage, and damage due to arthritis and wear and tear. Stem cells are harvested from your own fat tissue as well as bone marrow, using both local and IV anesthesia. Fat is the richest source of stem cells and the most powerful biologic for knee cartilage regeneration. Once the cells are isolated, they are injected into the damaged area in the knee with use of live x-ray guidance, ensuring accurate placement of the cells in the targeted tissue.
After a stem cell procedure, knee patients are typically back to their everyday activities and can return to work in 1-2 days. We instruct patients to avoid impact activities, twisting and torque on the damaged joint for one month following a stem cell procedure. Patients then gradually increase their activity each week over the next month or two until back to full activity. Improvements in symptoms are typically seen in the first 4-12 weeks following the procedure, while healing continues to progress for approximately one year.
These procedures can also complement the use of some orthopedic surgeries. Stem cell injections following meniscal repair have been shown to speed healing time and decrease postoperative pain. The use of stem cells in combination with many other arthroscopic procedures can also improve surgical outcomes and get you back to doing what you love most.
Every year research continues to advance training methods, surgical techniques and regenerative therapies for the management of knee injuries. Returning to crossfit or any sport quickly following a knee injury relies on making informed, educated treatment decisions and recovery choices. New avenues of minimally invasive treatment options, especially,with the use of biologics to help expedite the healing process, will continue to revolutionize the way joint, disc, tendon and ligament injuries are treated. Feel free to read through thrivemdvail.com to learn much more.
Scott Brandt, MD, is the founder and medical director of thriveMD, Colorado’s premier stem cell & regenerative medicine clinic.
You can read more about thriveMD and the plethora of case studies of using stem cell therapy to bring athletes back from devastating injuries to the sports they love most on their website here.
Mailing Address: 280 Main Street, #C-104, Edwards, CO 81632