The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 963: Easing Joint Pain without Surgery

Physical medicine, physical therapy, yoga and prolotherapy can ease joint pain and restore function in many cases without surgery.
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Easing Joint Pain without Surgery

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Playing a sport, leading an active lifestyle or taking an unexpected tumble can lead to joint injuries such as a sprained ankle or a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. Sometimes joints just start complaining because of accumulated wear and tear.

Sports medicine specialists often need to evaluate the best methods for overcoming pain and restoring the function of injured joints. Are there ways to alleviate the pain of such joint problems without undergoing surgery?

Physical medicine and regenerative injection therapy are two old but often underutilized ways of treating injured joints to restore them to painless function. Physical medicine may also use approaches such as yoga to restore range of motion and build back strength. Learn how physiatry, yoga and prolotherapy could benefit your aching back, knees or hips.

This Week’s Guests:

Loren Fishman, MD, is medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City. He is also associate editor of Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, on the staff at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and past president of the New York Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. His books include the forthcoming Healing Yoga, Yoga for Osteoporosis, Yoga for Arthritis and Cure Back Pain with Yoga. His website is

Brian Shiple, D. O., is director of the Center for Sports Medicine in Springfield, PA, and assistant clinical professor of Family and Community Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine. His book (written with Marlise Wind, MD) is Regenerative Healing for Life: A New Paradigm to Treat Injuries and Pain without Surgery.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I met a lady who had had a knee replacement. She died on the table, and where she went, “everything was gray.” I did not ask any questions regarding the gray! She said she could look down and see them working to bring her back. Eventually, she needed the other knee replaced, but wasn’t going through that again (can’t say I blame her). She went to florida, where she had stem cell injections, and it has worked for her. I understand stem cell injection is approved in only a few states. When, if ever do you think it will be approved in N.C.? North Carolina seems to be a few decades behind in so many ways. Your website is the most up-to-date and informative site ever!

A few years ago, I tore my left meniscus. The orthopedic surgeon said I needed surgery. I opted to ice and elevate as often as possible for a month. At that point I was ready to go back to the gym & resume moderate exercise.

Five years later, I feel a couple of times with what I thought was no injuries. A few months later, I pushed a small bucket of change with my left leg and was unable to walk from the pain. After an MRI of my lower back, it revealed stenosis and spondiolestisis of 2 lower vertebrates. My complaint was always with my left hip, not my lower back.

I have had 2 spinal injections and two hip injections. I went to physical therapy which helped at the time. I do practice yoga, almost every day, which gives me mobility. After 8 months, I am still in pain and my doctor now ordered an MRI of my hip. It says I have bone lose and a tear in a muscle, along with a cyst at the roof of the acetabulum.
Is there hope for me to find relief without undergoing surgery?

Are there any doctors in this area who utilize prolotherapy? Also, are there any veterinarians
who subscribe to this less restrictive practice for torn ACL’s ?
Many thanks

I do yoga every morning upon waking, for a half hour, and that wakes my body up. It is a wonderful way to start the day. I’m 81 and have been doing this at least 20 years. I walk well and climb stairs well.

A friend of mine got zero relief from prolotherapy, and I would be interested in hearing from those who did in fact benefit.

I went to a prolotherapist for knee joint pain and I’ll give him very high marks for his honest opinion. He said I had a Baker’s cyst in the knee (which two previous “experts” had missed) and said prolotherapy was not appropriate for me. He sent me back to my orthopedist for treatment, along with a written diagnosis of Baker’s cyst. The orthopedist then gave me the treatment he should have used in the first place.

I am a big believer in PT. First it was a knee injury when I slipped and whacked my knee while gardening. That was years ago and I still do my exercises to keep my muscles strong. This past year with more numbers added to my age I was having trouble walking any distance. So it was back to PT and another set of exercises. All this has enabled me to spend three weeks in London with lots of walking.

I am doing my best to stay healthy and mobile–without having replacement surgery!

This is great news for us older folks with degenerative diseases. I’ve had a spinal fusion, and it looks like I’m getting close to needing another one. I certainly will pursue looking for people who provide these regenerative treatments before I have more surgery. I previously had rotator cuff surgery because no one here knew of Dr. Fishman’s technique.

I have had 3 fusions and afterwards suffered for years with neck pain until (long story short) a friend introduced me to NUCCA chiropractic. In NUCCA there is no cracking, but a gentle movement in only the axis – brain stem. The theory is that when one’s head is on straight the body will also straighten. It has been a lifesaver for over 20 years now. Unless you find a money hungry practitioner you will have very few visits to the chiropractor and enjoy a new pain free life.

My son is 51 years old. He had shoulder surgery to relieve severe pain and the doctor cut into the bone. Since then, the pain may be worse than ever. It is very hard for him to sleep, and he drives a lot, which is very painful for his shoulder. Using his arm is getting harder. The doctors have told him that the void in his shoulder is filled with arthritis, and he could have more surgery to clean the arthritis out, but that it would only be a temporary fix. I heard the program this a.m. about the Dr. from Springfield, PA using dextrose in joints. Do you think it might help to talk with them?

Patsy, it certainly would make sense for your son to see a physical medicine specialist to evaluate the shoulder and see if prolotherapy would be helpful.

I had knee and hip pain and thought I would need surgery to get rid of the pain. My primary doctor suggested physical therapy first as did the surgeon. What a difference this made. I also went on hyaluronic acid (HA) which helps a lot (HA is a natural lubricant for joints.) While my knees aren’t what they used to be I am now pain free and able to do most of the things I used to do with exception of running sports. I do stretching exercises several times a week.. The therapist said that muscles can get very tight as one ages and unless you stretch them they will cause a lot of stress on joints. This was four years ago and still doing well.

RE: Easing Joint Pain Without Surgery…
I tore my rotator cuff when I tripped, fell and caught myself with arms outstretched as I landed on concrete. Ouch! I saw my GP, had an MRI and was sent to a highly-respected Orthopedic Surgeon who looked at the MRI, xrays and scheduled me for surgery. In the meantime I saw an old friend who had been in a terrible auto accident that left him so beat up that he could barely walk even with assistance despite months of physical therapy. His prognosis was not good.

His wife, an RN, took him to an acupuncturist. Within a few months he was sailing again and doing the things he always enjoyed! I went to the same acupuncturist (never had done that before!) and after 3 sessions I had FULL MOBILITY OF MY ARM! My pain was greatly reduced to occasional a minor ache. (My husband had worse pain following his rotator cuff surgeries.) I went back to my GP and my surgeon, and after examining my shoulder/arm, they both agreed that surgery could do nothing that acupuncture had not already achieved. I am now a great believer in acupuncture (find a good, certified one) and I use it occasionally for bouts of sciatica. I strongly encourage acupuncture as a first line of defense for many aches and pains. Don’t assume that surgery is your only option.

Thanks for the tip on pectin and grape juice, works like a charm first thing in the morning to get the stiffness out so you can get your day started!

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