Osteoarthritis (OA) is also known as joint “wear and tear”. Our bodies are in a constant state of cellular break down and regeneration. OA occurs when the break- down of cartilage cells exceeds the rate of rebuilding new cells, resulting in an overall loss of cartilage cells, which line the joints of the body.
The primary modality I recommend to an osteoarthritic patient is Low Intensity Laser Therapy. This form of laser speeds the healing process, by providing light energy to damaged cells. The cells convert the light energy into chemical energy, which is then used by the body to heal damaged cells and create new ones.
The first phase of cellular healing is Inflammation, which is responsible for the pain associated with arthritis. Because cells are constantly being destroyed in an osteoarthritic joint, there are always cells that are in that first, inflammatory stage, which is why there is often constant pain with OA. If damaged cartilage is exposed to laser light, healing is accelerated and patients are pushed through that painful inflammatory stage at a faster rate, leading to resolution of pain.
Even more exciting is that with proper laser dosage, new cell growth and repair of damaged cells will exceed cellular breakdown, leading to an overall less arthritic joint. Although the arthritis is an ongoing process, and cell breakdown will continue to happen, continued laser therapy, once initial dosage has been given, will keep cells renewing at an increased rate, to keep symptoms of OA at bay. This treatment is painless and carries virtually no side-effects or risks.
As with any therapy, laser therapy is rarely the sole component of a treatment plan. Education, exercise and other modalities (ie. Active Release Therapy®, acupuncture) are complementary to laser in the conservative management of osteoarthritis.
by Dr Erin Kempt-Sutherland, DC