Joints are the primary source of movement and stability in the body, so they can be very painful and limiting when injured. Unfortunately, joint injuries take a long time to heal since their lack of direct blood supply restricts the number of nutrients and oxygen that can reach the affected area, making it difficult for them to repair themselves properly.
Explore some factors that can cause joint injuries to take longer than usual to heal, as well as suggest ways to speed up the recovery process.
Key Factors That Attribute to Joints Delayed Healing
Outlined below are some key factors that can contribute to the slow healing of joints.
1. Poor Vascularization
Joints can take a long time to heal after an injury due to poor vascularization. This is especially true for areas with limited sources of oxygen and nutrients, such as the internal capsule of the knee, making it difficult for the body’s natural healing processes to function optimally. Injuries in other parts of the body where there is plentiful vascularization tend to heal more quickly.
For instance, injuries in the hands or feet due to stress fractures and tendonitis often heal much faster than knee injuries. Tissue regeneration after major operations and surgeries also takes longer when it occurs on intensely vascularized body parts, such as ligaments inside a joint capsule. Additionally, some forms of arthritis can affect the healing process due to progressive wear and tear, which causes damage to joint tissues.
Sometimes over years before any symptoms become apparent. The decrease in the blood’s ability to flow freely through the joints can further impede their recovery rate. Poor circulation is associated with prolonged healing times indoors in bones that have lost structural integrity and at terminals such as ligaments and cartilage. Inadequate vascularization is one common reason joint heals may take so long.
Age is one of the main factors contributing to joint healing taking longer. As people age, their bodies become less able to synthesize and repair collagen, the protein essential for forming and rebuilding joint tissue. Because of this, elderly patients often suffer from collagen deficiencies and reduced regenerative capabilities in their bones and joints.
To compensate for these reductions in natural healing ability, older individuals must focus on engaging in physical activities that will help reduce discomfort and aid in better managing the condition of their joints. This requires in-depth knowledge about how body movements affect different areas of the body and how to practice good posture throughout recovery.
By incorporating the needed preventative routines into daily activity alongside any prescribed treatments, patients of any age can help protect themselves from more serious joint injuries down the line.
3. Health Status
The overall health status of an individual can also be a factor in how quickly their joint injuries will heal. Those who are relatively healthy with no comorbidities or underlying conditions may have a better chance of recovering from joint injuries faster than those who suffer from any chronic illness.
This is because many illnesses like diabetes and heart disease can affect the body’s circulatory system by hardening arteries and restricting vital nutrients and oxygen from reaching damaged tissue. This is why individuals suffering from chronic health issues should always consult a healthcare professional before starting any physical therapy or exercise regimen that may help speed up joint recovery.
4. Type of Trauma or Surgery
Trauma or surgery to a joint is often the cause of a long and painful recovery period. Tears in tendons, ligaments, and cartilage require much more time to repair than other parts of the body, with up to 6 months needed for a full recovery. This extended healing time is primarily attributed to the intricate structure of the joint, which contains numerous specialized tissues that must heal harmoniously before any use can be resumed.
As healing continues, progress must be monitored closely by a medical professional to ensure that the joint does not sustain additional damage or revert to its original condition. Without proper medical attention, the healing process for a damaged joint could extend far beyond six months.
Another factor that contributes to the long healing time of joints is inflammation. Joints are filled with highly sensitive nerve endings, and when an injury occurs, they become swollen and painful due to inflammation. When a joint injury occurs, the body releases cytokines surrounding the site of the damage, which triggers an inflammatory response.
This inflammatory process helps protect nearby tissue after an injury. Yet, the downside is that this same response can slow recovery as inflamed cells impede repair systems from working effectively. Furthermore, movement after a joint injury can be uncomfortable because it further irritates already damaged tissue while impeding blood flow throughout the area, making it harder for swelling and pain to dissipate.
Thus, treating inflammation correctly is necessary for joints to heal properly and quickly.
What Are Some Common Treatments for Joint Injuries?
Common treatments for joint pain and injuries depend on the severity of the injury.
1. Physical Therapy and Exercises
Physical therapy and exercises can help to strengthen the surrounding muscles of a joint that has been injured. This helps to improve the range of motion, reduce pain, and promote proper healing. When engaging in physical therapy, it is important to ensure the exercises are being done correctly, as incorrect movements could worsen the injury.
2. Elevation and Rest
Elevating a joint can help to reduce swelling and pain. This can be done by simply placing a pillow underneath the injured area while resting or reclining. Resting is also important as it allows the joint to heal without any added stress or strain from movement.
Over-the-counter or prescription medications may help to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain associated with joint injury. However, it is important to note that these medications can have side effects and should be taken only under the supervision of a medical professional.
4. Ice and Heat
Using either ice or heat on an injured joint may also help reduce pain and inflammation. Applying a cold pack can help numb pain while constricting blood vessels to slow down swelling. On the other hand, heat helps to relax muscles and increase blood flow. It is important to note that it is not advisable to apply both cold and heat treatments simultaneously.
Surgery is sometimes necessary for a joint to heal properly. This can include repairing torn ligaments or tendons or removing damaged tissue. Surgery is only recommended in extreme cases when other treatments are not successful. Finding an appropriate orthopedic surgeon is critical and if you need an example of a great one go ahead and check out Integrated Orthopedics.
Additionally, more experimental treatments are being researched for joint injuries. They include.
1. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
This is a treatment where a person’s platelets are injected into the injured joint to help promote healing and reduce inflammation. It is still being studied and has had mixed results in terms of effectiveness.
2. Stem Cell Therapy
This relatively new treatment involves injecting stem cells into an affected joint to promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation, and reduce pain. Again, this is still being researched and has had variable outcomes in studies.
3. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT)
This treatment involves using sound waves to stimulate tissue regeneration in the affected joint. It is effective in some cases but is still being studied for its long-term results. Patients should consult their doctor before considering this type of treatment.
4. Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT)
This is a fairly recent form of treatment that involves injecting naturally occurring molecules into the affected joint to stimulate healing processes. The results of this treatment are still being studied and have had varying outcomes.
However, it is important to note that the FDA still needs to approve these treatment methods. Patients should consult their doctor before considering any of these experimental treatments.
Joint injuries can take a long time to heal and require multiple treatments to achieve the best possible outcome. However, proper care and treatment can improve joint injuries and help people return to normal activities. It is important to listen to the advice of a healthcare professional and take all prescribed treatments seriously to promote proper healing. With patience and perseverance, joint injuries can heal over time, allowing people to return to normal lifestyles.