I frequently hear from patients they have been told that they have bone on bone arthritis and have been recommended replacement surgery. I sometimes wonder if patients understand that xray imaging is fraught with error based on the angle the image is shot or exposure taken, that what looks like significant joint narrowing may be simply a matter of positioning. I also wonder when some of these folks have really good range of motion in their joint how it’s possible for them to have no cartilage since they wouldn’t have their intact motion with no cartilage. And lastly I don’t think people realize that pain in a joint comes from more than arthritis, but the strain on the soft tissue structures supporting that joint as well.
Soft tissue structures play an essential role in joint health
Soft tissue structures such as tendons, ligaments, and menisci are all essential in supporting a healthy joint. Arthritis is in fact more than just cartilage degradation, it also includes weakening of the soft tissue structures that are meant to support that arthritic joint. To ignore these soft tissue structures is to dismiss their vital nature in joint health, and also means that you may be missing an opportunity to treat someone’s pain in a more effective manner.
Strengthening these soft tissue components can improve the pain and dysfunction experienced in an arthritic joint. Improving biomechanics and strengthening associated muscles is essential. And if that is inadequate, then working the soft tissue structures with regenerative treatments such as prolotherapy, platelet rich plasma, and stem cells can be useful in strengthening weakened structures, healing some damage to those structures, and generally improving the chemical milieu these structures exist in. So the next time you’re told that you have arthritis, make sure your doctor pays attention to treating the soft tissue structures supporting your joint.