Blue Ridge

Just what is Cartilage anyway?

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What Is Cartilage?

www.arthritis-health.com  -  Emmanuel Konstantakos, MD

Cartilage is a tremendously strong and flexible fibrous tissue that takes many forms and serves multiple purposes throughout the body. There are three types of cartilage: elastic cartilage, fibrocartilage, and hyaline cartilage.

Hyaline cartilage is the most common type of cartilage and can be found at the nose, windpipe, and most of the body’s joints. In essence, this cartilage can be thought of as the material that makes up the lubricant inside your joints. The word Hyaline is actually derived from the Greek word “Hyali” or “Γυαλί,” which means “Glass.” Under normal circumstances, a normal human joint is actually shiny and smooth similar to the inside of a glass.

In a joint, hyaline cartilage is referred to as articular cartilage because it covers bones’ surfaces where they articulate, or meet up with one another. This article focuses on articular cartilage.

Articular Cartilage
The thickness of articular cartilage varies from joint to joint. For example, cartilage at the wrist may be less than 1 mm thick 1 , while in some areas of the knee the cartilage may be as thick as 6 mm.2

Articular cartilage has two primary purposes:

  • Smooth movement. Extremely slippery, articular cartilage allows bones to glide over each other as a joint flexes and straightens.
  • Shock absorption. Articular cartilage acts as a shock absorber, cushioning bones against impacting each other during a weight-bearing activity, such as walking or jogging.

Articular cartilage also stores synovial fluid, a sticky, viscous fluid that lubricates and circulates nutrients to the joint. When the joint is at rest, the synovial fluid is stored in the articular cartilage much like water is stored in a sponge. When the joint bends or bears weight, the synovial fluid is squeezed out, helping to keep the joint lubricated and healthy.

Cartilage Damage
Despite its flexibility and strength, cartilage can be damaged. Problems can arise due to:

Injury
Wear-and-tear over time that can eventually lead to osteoarthritis
Diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis

Because it does not contain blood vessels, cartilage does not heal itself well. When cartilage has become thinned or damaged, a limited amount of new cartilage may be produced, but the new cartilage cells will grow in irregular, bumpy patterns. The result is that the bones may rub and grind against one another at the joint and this can be a source of pain.

Cartilage does not contain nerves, so damaged cartilage itself does not cause pain. However, the friction between bones and other resulting abnormalities in the joint can cause discomfort and pain as well as inflammation.

Gradual onset of stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joint can be a sign of osteoarthritis.

 

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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office  radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

 

References:
1. Pollock J, O’Toole RV, Nowicki SD, Eglseder WA. Articular cartilage thickness at the distal radius: a cadaveric study. J Hand Surg Am. 2013 Aug;38(8):1477-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2013.04.037. Epub 2013 Jun 28. PubMed PMID: 23810572.

2. Cohen ZA, McCarthy DM, Kwak SD, Legrand P, Fogarasi F, Ciaccio EJ, Ateshian GA. Knee cartilage topography, thickness, and contact areas from MRI: in-vitro calibration and in-vivo measurements. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 1999 Jan;7(1):95-109. PubMed PMID: 10367018.

Back Pain Getting on your Nerves?

Types of Back Pain

www.spine-health.com  –  Ralph F. Rashbaum, MD

It’s important to have a general understanding of the major different types of back pain, because the type of pain dictates the treatment options.

Nociceptive Pain and Neuropathy

The medical community usually classifies pain in one of two general categories: neuropathic pain and nociceptive (somatic) pain.

  • Nociceptive pain is pain that is sensed by the “nociceptor” sensory fibers after an injury to a muscle, soft tissue (ligaments, tendons), bones, joints, or skin (or other organs). Nociceptive pain is often characterized as a deep aching, throbbing, gnawing, or sore sensation. Common examples of nociceptive pain related to back pain include: pain after trauma (e.g. back pain after a car accident or a fall), pain after back surgery, and arthritis pain. Nociceptive pain is usually localized and gets better with healing.
  • Neuropathy or neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to nerve tissue. Neuropathy is often characterized as burning, severe shooting pains, and/or persistent numbness or tingling. Common examples of neuropathic pain related to back pain include sciatica, pain that travels from the spine down the arm, pain that persists after back surgery.

It is thought that in some cases prolonged nociceptive pain may progress to neuropathy, and a patient may have both nociceptive pain and neuropathy at the same time.

Acute Pain and Chronic Pain

It’s also important to distinguish between acute pain and chronic pain, as the two types of pain are very different in form and function.

  • Acute pain- With acute pain, the severity of pain directly correlates to the level of tissue damage. This provides us with a protective reflex, such as the reflex to move your hand immediately if you touch a sharp object. This type of pain is a symptom of injured or diseased tissue, so that when the underlying problem is cured the pain goes away.

Acute pain is a form of nociceptive pain.

  • Chronic pain - In chronic pain, the pain does not have the same meaning as with acute pain – it does not serve a protective or other biological function. Rather, the nerves continue to send pain messages to the brain even though there is no continuing tissue damage.Neuropathy is a form of chronic pain.

 

Anatomy Of Nerve Pain

The spinal cord is the main part of the body’s central nervous system that conveys signals from the brain to the nerves throughout the body. Nerves coming from and leading to all parts of the body enter and exit the spinal cord along its entire length.

How Nerve Pain Occurs


Peripheral Neuralgia Video

There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves that exit the spinal cord through openings between the vertebrae. The point at which the nerve exits the spinal cord is called the nerve root, and where it branches out into many smaller nerves that control different parts of the body is called peripheral nerves. For example, a nerve that exits the lower back has peripheral branches that extend all the way down to the toes. Peripheral nerves comprise the peripheral nervous system.

The peripheral nerves include both motor nerves and sensory nerves:

  • Sensory nerves are nerves that receive sensory stimuli, such as how something feels and if it is painful. They are made up of nerve fibers, called sensory fibers (mechanoreceptor fibers sense body movement and pressure placed against the body, and nociceptor fibers sense tissue injury).
  • Motor nerves lead to the muscles and stimulate movement. They are made up of nerve fibers called motor fibers.

Nerve Injury and Neuropathy Pain

While it has not been firmly established, it is thought that injury to any of the above types of nerve tissue can be a possible cause neuropathy pain.

The part of the nerve cell that is damaged by a neuropathy is the axon (the inner information pathway of the nerve cell) and/or its myelin covering (the fatty outer sheath that protects the nerve cell and assists in conveying information throughout the nervous system).

When neuropathy pain occurs by damage to the above structures, neuropathy is sustained by abnormal processing of sensory input by the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system.

Most pain is a signal to the brain that there is damage or an injury to the tissues or structures of the body, and is known as nociceptive pain. Neuropathic pain is caused by an issue with the nerves themselves.

Dr. Daniel Heller and Dr. David Kim, here at Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center are incredibly skilled at treating all types of pain and your well-being is their priority. If you are experiencing any of these  types of pain or you just aren’t sure what’s happening but you’re suffering, please don’t hesitate to contact us and make an appointment. 

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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office  radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

Physical Therapy offers a non-drug alternative to Pain Management

NIH Says Current Treatment of Chronic Pain Has Created ‘Silent Epidemic;’ More Focus Needed on Non-Drug Approaches

News Now Staff – APTA

According to a report recently released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s time that treatment of chronic pain moves from a 1-pill-fits-all mindset to an evidence-based, individualized, multidisciplinary model that recognizes the value of non-pharmacological approaches, including physical therapy.

The report (.pdf) is the product of an NIH panel that looked at the current state of treatment for chronic pain, which is estimated to affect 100 Americans. In addition to looking into research on the issue, the panel convened a workshop that included more than 20 speakers. The results of the panel’s work were published earlier this week (.pdf), and featured in the online edition of Time magazine.

Much of the report is focused on the use—and possible overuse—of opioids as the “go-to” approach in almost all cases of chronic pain. In addition to contributing to patterns of drug abuse, the reliance on opioids may simply not be helping in all circumstances, according to the panel report.

“Together, the prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a ‘silent epidemic’ of distress, disability, and danger to a large percentage of Americans,” authors write. “The overriding question is whether we, as a nation, are currently approaching chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm.”

The answer to that question, the panel found, is no. Patients with chronic pain are typically “‘lumped’ into a single category, and treatment approaches have been generalized with little evidence to support this practice,” they write.

Because the manifestations and response to pain can be so varied, the report calls for a variety of treatment options that include physical therapy, which is specifically mentioned in the report. These non-pharmacological treatments can be very effective—the problem, as one speaker at the workshop noted, is that “lack of knowledge or limited availability of these non-pharmacological modalities and the ready availability of pharmacological options and associated reimbursement structure appear to steer clinicians toward the use of … opioids.”

An NIH press release on the report quotes panel chair David B. Reuben, MD, as saying that “clearly there are patients for whom opioids are the best treatment for their chronic pain. However, for others, there are likely to be more effective approaches.” The solution, he believes, is to ensure that “every patient’s individual needs are met by a patient-centered health care system.”

The panel report cites many barriers to the implementation of such a system, including lack of substantive evidence-based research, limited physician access to experts in other disciplines, and some insurance plans’ resistance to integrative treatment approaches. For now, authors write, the chronic pain landscape is one in which “large numbers of Americans are receiving suboptimal care.”

The release of the report comes at a time when the issue is receiving wider attention, thanks in part to Cake, and a new film starring Jennifer Aniston as a woman with chronic pain. Recently, the Washington Post addressed the issue in an article that called for a “blended approach” to chronic pain, including the use of physical therapy. That story followed up on a January 12 Washington Post article titled “8 ways to deal with chronic pain.” The article’s first recommendation: “embrace physical therapy.”

“The more you move, the better you feel,” reporter Rachel Noble Benner writes in the article. “Strategically strengthening and stretching the body, especially parts that are affected by chronic pain, can increase mobility, decrease pain, and improve overall mood. Find a physical therapist who is experienced in working with people who have chronic pain.”

The Physical Therapists at Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine works exclusively in the treatments of Orthopaedic conditions and have experience working with patients who have chronic pain. In conjunction with your doctor and using evidence-based treatments, we create treatment plans to treat the patient as a whole, not just the injury, and to restore full functionality.

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center is Northern Virginia’s premier facility for diagnosing and treating back pain and spinal disorders. In addition to our regionally renowned Spine Center, our practice features Joint Replacement, Sports Medicine, Pain Management, Physical Therapy, Trauma Center, Shoulder Care, a Hand Center and a Foot and Ankle Center.

We are committed to treating not just injuries and physical ailments, but rather the whole person, by offering a wide range of specialty programs designed to support treatment. Specialty programs include Massage Therapy, Medical Nutrition and Aquatic Physical Therapy.

APTA has been at the forefront in helping the public understand how physical therapy can be a transformative agent in the treatment of chronic pain. The subject was featured in a Move Forward radio podcast, and the association offers a physical therapist’s guide to chronic pain syndromes. Additionally, the APTA Orthopaedic Section sponsors a special interest group in pain management, and the PT’s role in chronic pain management was featured in the September issue of Motion magazine.

Basic Knee Pain & Issues

Brief anatomy of the knee

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The knee is a vulnerable joint that bears a great deal of stress from everyday activities, such as lifting and kneeling, and from high-impact activities, such as jogging and aerobics.

The knee is formed by the following parts:

  • Tibia. This is the shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg.
  • Femur. This is the thighbone or upper leg bone.
  • Patella. This is the kneecap.

Each bone end is covered with a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee. Basically, the knee is 2 long leg bones held together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

There are 2 groups of muscles involved in the knee, including the quadriceps muscles (located on the front of the thighs), which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles (located on the back of the thighs), which bend the leg at the knee.

Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone. Some ligaments on the knee provide stability and protection of the joints, while other ligaments limit forward and backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).

What are some common knee problems?

Many knee problems are a result of the aging process and continual wear and stress on the knee joint (such as, arthritis). Other knee problems are a result of an injury or a sudden movement that strains the knee. Common knee problems include the following:

  • Sprained or strained knee ligaments and/or muscles. A sprained or strained knee ligament or muscle is usually caused by a blow to the knee or a sudden twist of the knee. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking.
  • Torn cartilage. Trauma to the knee can tear the menisci (pads of connective tissue that act as shock absorbers and also enhance stability). Cartilage tears can often occur with sprains. Treatment may involve wearing a brace during an activity to protect the knee from further injury. Surgery may be needed to repair the tear.
  • Tendonitis. Inflammation of the tendons may result from overuse of a tendon during certain activities such as running, jumping, or cycling. Tendonitis of the patellar tendon is called jumper’s knee. This often occurs with sports, such as basketball, where the force of hitting the ground after a jump strains the tendon.
  • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process where the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away, and often affects middle-age and older people. Osteoarthritis may be caused by excess stress on the joint such as repeated injury or being overweight.Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the knees by causing the joint to become inflamed and by destroying the knee cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects persons at an earlier age than osteoarthritis.

How are knee problems diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for knee problems may include the following:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; can often determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • Arthroscopy. A minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope), which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.
  • Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient’s bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

Treatment for knee problems

Specific treatment for knee problems will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease, injury, or condition
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease, injury, or condition
  • Your opinion or preference

If initial treatment methods do not provide relief, and X-rays show destruction of the joint, the orthopaedist may recommend total joint replacement for the knee.

 

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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Kolbus, Karin, RN, DNP, COHN-S 
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

When the excuse, I slept on it wrong, doesn’t work anymore.

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Spine-Health.com – Richard A. Staehler, MD

A stiff neck is typically characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. A stiff neck may also be accompanied by a headache, neck pain, shoulder pain and/or arm pain, and cause the individual to turn the entire body as opposed to the neck when trying to look sideways or backwards.

Symptoms typically last for a couple of days or a week and may prompt neck pain that ranges from mildly painful but annoying to extremely painful and limiting. While there are a few instances in which neck stiffness is a sign of a serious medical condition, most episodes of acute neck stiffness or pain heal quickly due to the durable and recuperative nature of the cervical spine.

Stiff Neck Causes and Symptoms
The most common causes of a stiff neck include, but are not limited to, the following:

Muscle Strain or Sprain
By far the most common cause of a stiff neck is a muscle sprain or muscle strain, particularly to the levator scapula muscle. Located at the back and side of the neck, the levator scapula muscle connects the cervical spine (the neck) with the shoulder. This muscle is controlled by the third and fourth cervical nerves (C3, C4).

The levator scapula muscle may be strained or sprained throughout the course of many common, everyday activities, such as:

  • Sleeping in a position that strains the neck muscles
  • Sports injuries that strain the neck
  • Any activity that involves repeatedly turning the head from side to side, such as swimming the front crawl stroke
  • Poor posture, such as slouching while viewing the computer monitor
  • Excessive stress, which can lead to tension in the neck
  • Holding the neck in an abnormal position for a long period, such as cradling a phone between the neck and shoulder.

Meningitis / Infection
A stiff neck, in conjunction with a high fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, sleepiness and other symptoms, may be indicative of meningitis, a bacterial inflection that causes the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord to be inflamed. Other infections can also cause stiff neck symptoms, such as meningococcal disease, an infection in the cervical spine. Any time a stiff neck is accompanied by a fever, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention to check for these possibilities.

Cervical Spine Disorders
Many problems in the cervical spine can lead to neck stiffness. The stiffness can be a reaction to the underlying disorder in the cervical spine. For example, a cervical herniated disc or cervical osteoarthritis can lead to neck stiffness, as the structures and nerve pathways in the cervical spine are all interconnected and a problem in any one area can lead to muscle spasm and/or muscle stiffness.

Stiff Neck Treatments
As a general rule, it is advisable to seek medical attention if the stiff neck symptoms do not subside after one week. Immediate medical attention is recommended if neck stiffness is noted after a traumatic injury, or if there are additional troublesome symptoms, such as a high fever.

In the vast majority of cases, a stiff neck may be treated within a few days.
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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814

 

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