There is an article in the Wall Street Journal today (April 18, 2011) on Americans wearing out their joints early due to their participation in marathons, triathlons, and other sports and suffering osteoarthritis at younger ages than their counterparts in previous generations. The article then discusses the various joint replacement surgeries available now and the push toward new components that would last longer. The question it asks: How can we best replace the joint surgically once it wears out?
I have another question (as do may many of you): how can we prevent or slow this trend non-surgically? Can we correct biomechanics before joint surfaces wear unevenly, consider footwear and equipment adjustments, or take other preventative measures? Can we use herbal and dietary options (SAMe, DONA brand Glucosamine Sulfate, etc.), laser, or minimally invasive treatments (PRP, stem cell therapy) to improve the quality of the cartilage? Can we stabilize the joints through strengthening the surrounding musculature or thicken the supporting ligaments with prolotherapy?
There are many new options for early arthritis that may prevent progression to more severe forms that respond poorly to non-surgical treatments. Can we catch arthritis early enough to intervene? (Or should we just live with it until it becomes severe enough to warrant joint replacement surgery?)
These questions are close to my heart and are at the core of the regenerative therapy movement. I am looking forward to the upcoming national regenerative medicine conference for an update on the current state of research in this area (I will attend next week in Las Vegas), and will share what I learn with you upon return.