The Norway office has transitioned to MaineHealth Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Their phone number is 207.393.3157.

Non-Surgical Relief for Joint Pain and Injuries

When joint replacement is not the answer, the specialists at Spectrum Orthopaedics can help patients live with less pain and more mobility.

Joint pain and injuries put many people on the sidelines each year, but joint replacement surgery is not the only solution. The Spectrum orthopedic specialists offer a full range of non-surgical treatment options to get people back to their lives.

“In many cases, we can get people back to running or to the gym and other activities they enjoy,” says Christopher Regnier, DO, a sports medicine physician specializing in the prevention and nonsurgical treatment of acute and chronic orthopedic conditions. “For others, that goal may be just to walk down the flight of stairs or around the block without pain.”

Helping patients with unique challenges

“I treat a lot of patients where, unfortunately, they are just not great candidates for a hip or knee replacement,” says Christopher Lonegan, DO, a primary care sports medicine physician specializing in treating non-surgical sports-related and other musculoskeletal injuries. “Their body mass index (BMI) may be too high, or they may have other health issues where surgery is not possible.”

“There are also many patients who are in a gray zone,” continues Dr. Lonegan. “They may have arthritis that is advancing but not quite at a stage of needing a replacement. Although they aren’t yet candidates for joint replacement, some people have considerable pain to the point where physical therapy might not be an option for them.”

Non-surgical treatments can reduce pain and increase function

Spectrum orthopedic specialists create customized treatment plans for patients that experience joint pain or injuries. Often at the top of the list is trying an injection for joint pain.

Depending on the patient, the doctor may recommend a cortisone shot, a viscosupplementation (hyaluronic acid) injection, a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection, or a combined injection to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

In many cases, our team uses ultrasound technology to administer these injections in the safest and most precise way possible.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound (also called sonography) is a way to see tissues and organs in the body that are softer than the bones, such as tendons, muscles, joint surfaces, and blood vessels. Unlike an X-Ray or an MRI, ultrasound does not use any kind radiation whatsoever. Instead, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the body. But unlike standing next to an amplifier at a rock concert, you cannot hear the frequency of these sound waves.

Ultrasound imaging can be used to diagnose injuries to the body’s soft tissues, and it can also be used in certain types of treatment. For example, as mentioned above, an orthopedic doctor can use ultrasound to see exactly where they are putting the medicine during a joint injection. This means the medicine has a better chance of relieving your joint pain.

Dr. Lonegan explains further: “A lot of times if you go to someone who is not trained in this type of modality, you can have an injection but it might not actually be in the place where you’re wanting it to be, it might not be treating what you’re aiming to treat, you might accidentally put it in a muscle that’s completely unrelated to where a tendinopathy is. And so, for me, it’s incredibly important to know exactly where I’m putting the medication, so we’re actually treating what’s the issue.”

One of the types of injections that can be guided by ultrasound imaging is a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment. Prior to this procedure, some of your own blood will be drawn from your body. Then your blood’s different components are separated into layers so that only the platelets can be extracted using a syringe.

One of Spectrum’s orthopedic doctors will then use ultrasound to see exactly where to put the syringe’s needle to inject the PRP into the damaged part of your joint. The PRP can often stimulate the tissues in your joint to re-start the healing process and hopefully repair the damage. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.

PRP is just one possible option for non-surgical knee pain relief, and it can also be used in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints all over the body. Though the evidence is not completely clear yet, PRP may benefit patients with tennis elbow, jumper’s knee, plantar fasciitis, muscle strains, ligament sprains, and more recently arthritis. You can read more about how Spectrum’s orthopedic physicians use ultrasound imaging here.

You’ve probably heard of another type of injection to treat pain: a steroid injection.

“I have some patients come in with absolutely debilitating shoulder pain,” says Dr. Lonegan. “In this state, they really can’t move their shoulder or tolerate any degree of therapy. In this scenario, we often start with a steroid injection to calm down this pain so they can use their shoulder in a therapeutic way.”

What is a steroid injection?

Steroid injections are also called cortisone shots or corticosteroid injections. They are manufactured drugs that are very similar to a certain hormone your body produces, called cortisol.

Cortisone/steroids are used to treat injuries and other conditions where there is significant pain being caused by inflammation. Inflammation is part of your body’s immune response to try and heal an injury — but sometimes the body’s inflammation response causes so much pain, it interferes with your ability to perform the tasks and activities that could actually help you to heal and prevent further injury, such as physical therapy.

Steroid injections (cortisone) can be used in large joints such as the knee and shoulder, as well as in smaller joints, such as in the hand or ankle.

A well-rounded strategy for non-surgical pain relief

Beyond ultrasound and injections, Spectrum orthopedic specialists offer a comprehensive approach to non-surgical joint pain treatment. As long as you are not experiencing a level of pain that prohibits movement, physical therapy and occupational therapy are likely to be essential parts of your treatment plan. In fact, many orthopedic conditions and injuries can be treated with physical therapy alone. If you do need more assertive treatments, Spectrum Orthopaedics has you covered.

“In addition to injections, physical therapy, medications, lifestyle modification, and nerve blocks, we can help our patients manage their condition until they are at a point where they may need to move forward with surgical intervention,” explains Dr. Regnier.

“I have patients that managed their conditions with more conservative treatments for years, if not a decade or more,” Dr. Regnier continues. “Some do end up needing joint replacement, but it’s hard to predict.”

No matter what your path of non-surgical pain relief looks like for a joint injury or other joint condition, Spectrum’s orthopedic physicians, physical therapists, and other providers will be with you every step of the way. To request an appointment with a musculoskeletal ultrasound specialist, call 207.828.2100 or complete this form.

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