Osteoarthritis – Our Changing Perspective

By: Dr. David G. Webb
By: Dr. David G. Webb
By: Dr. David G. Webb
By: Dr. David G. Webb

Have you been experiencing shoulder, upper back and/or arm pain, possibly with tingling or numbness into your hand and fingers?  In speaking with friends and patients, I have found that this is an extremely common complaint.  For many, the symptoms feel mostly muscular, with palpable muscle knots and tight muscles in their neck and shoulders.  One of my patients, an accountant, and his doctor, thought that it was just tight, knotted muscles that were causing pain between his shoulder blades, radiating down his arm with pain and numbness into his hand.  But, an X-ray showed that it was being caused by a bone spur in his neck from arthritic deterioration of the joints in his spine, pressing on the nerve going into his arm, causing inflammation and extreme pain. 

Many of my patients have found, from an X-ray or MRI, that their similar symptoms were also caused by a bone spur in their neck, pressing on the nerve that travels down their arm to their fingers.  Bone spurs are a common result of the progressive joint deterioration associated with osteoarthritis.  When a bone spur is pressing on a nerve, causing tingling, numbness, pain, and muscle weakness, the conventional treatment approach is pain medications and surgery, but is surgery, which can result in sometimes serious complications, with no pain reduction or even a worsening of your pain and disability, your only option?  The spouse of one of my patients chose surgery and never regained full function in his affected arm.  He ended up with chronic weakness and muscle atrophy in his affected arm, and was told he will just have to live with that. 

One of my patients, who decided against surgery, chose a new cutting-edge treatment approach under my care.  In just four weeks, his pain and numbness were completely gone, and he regained 95% of the strength that he had lost in his affected arm.  He quickly reversed the significant muscle atrophy he had experienced as well, and is now completely recovered, with no remaining signs of his prior disabling condition.  If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, and pain relievers and muscle relaxants have not been effective, you might consider pushing your doctor to order an MRI of your cervical spine to see if osteoarthritis and bone spurs might be the cause of your unresolving symptoms.  Let’s take a look at what osteoarthritis is, and some hopeful new modalities for treating the pain and stiffness associated with OA. 

Osteoarthritis was once thought to be the result of a lifetime of mechanical wear and tear on our joints.  As we move under the force of gravity throughout our lifetime, it was believed that our joints wore down, leading to the progressive loss of cartilage that cushions our joints and keeps them moving smoothly and painlessly.  It is this progressive loss of cartilage in our joints, eventually resulting in bone spur formation,  that defines osteoarthritis.  Although trauma to our joints plays a role in the development of osteoarthritis, new research is pointing to the central role that inflammation plays in the development and progression of this debilitating disease.

Steven B. Abramson, M.D. and team at the NYU School of Medicine, in 2009 published research findings, showing that the chemicals that produce inflammation in our bodies (cytokines), such as IL-1β and TNF-α, play a key role in initiating the breakdown of joint cartilage.  This revelation has opened many new treatment possibilities focused on the goal of reducing overall inflammation and inhibiting the destructive effects of particular cytokines.  Since the research of Dr. Abramson indicates that blocking the activity of IL-1β can effectively stop continued cartilage deterioration, this may point toward novel, new treatment approaches that, if nothing else, can at least slow down or possibly even halt the progression of osteoarthritis.  Now that we understand more fully the central role that inflammation plays in the progressive joint deterioration of osteoarthritis, more and more we are seeing a focus on reducing systemic inflammation in the body as the principle focus in treatment protocols.  There is a catch, though.  What you use to reduce inflammation is an important consideration.  Steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Advil and Aleve, when used long-term for pain management in osteoarthritis, have been found to increase deterioration of joints.  So, the goal is to modulate inflammation, rather than to completely shut down the inflammatory process like steroids and NSAIDs do.  A good treatment rationale, then, is to use therapies that modulate inflammation, significantly reduce or eliminate pain, while protecting our joints from continued deterioration. 

I have found in my personal practice that this treatment rationale works extremely well.  There are treatment methods that are gentle, safe, completely painless and non-invasive, such as Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and specific natural anti-inflammatory supplements that, when used in combination, quickly and dramatically reduce inflammation and block the activity of IL-1β and TNF-α.  FSM is a novel new treatment method that applies extremely minute and imperceptible electrical frequencies to the body that stimulate specific cellular and tissue responses, and has been shown to reliably reduce inflammation by 62% in only 4 minutes.  With the use of FSM and specific anti-inflammatory supplements, I have seen my patient’s pain levels associated with osteoarthritis drop from 10/10 to 1/10 in only 3 treatments, and maintain at 1-2/10 throughout their treatment course.  Treatments are designed to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential to repair the damage to your joints and eliminate the inflammation that is causing your pain.  Rather than add to continued joint deterioration over time, like NSAIDs do, these therapies greatly accelerate the healing and regeneration of joint tissues.  This is life changing for many, giving them back their independence and ability to enjoy life again, and gives the field of medicine new hope for a brighter future when dealing with chronic debilitating diseases like osteoarthritis.

David Webb is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine at David G. Webb, DOM, PA in Wilton Manors, Florida ( who specializes in pain and injury. He can be contacted at 954-289-8901.