An orthopedic specialist is a physician dedicated to the care of musculoskeletal issues in the body. Some of their most challenging but rewarding work focuses on major joints, such as the knee, shoulder and elbow. New treatments, delivered with world-class technology and expertise, are producing remarkable healing results at Angelo Mattalino, MD in Phoenix, AZ.
When Should I See an Orthopedic Specialist?
Even for those who keep physically fit, injury and age take a toll on the body. Athletes, ranging from weekend warriors to serious professionals, all end up placing unnatural stress and wear on joints that can eventually lead to short-term injury or long-term wear. Runner’s knees, tennis and golf elbows, and shoulder injuries from throwing, swinging and climbing all take their eventual toll.
Even those who are less active may experience a decline in their flexibility and mobility as they age. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 54 million adults live with some form of arthritis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, another 10 million Americans live with that disease. These conditions only get worse over time and can have serious effects on daily living.
When physical discomfort is significant enough to reduce your level of activity, impact your livelihood, or negatively affect your attitude, it’s time to see an orthopedic specialist.
How Can an Orthopedic Specialist Help Me?
Like many aspects of healthcare, orthopedic medicine is making radical advances through new technologies and therapies. Many conditions that could once only be addressed through open surgery can now be performed in a variety of less-invasive ways. While surgical procedures are still called for in some injuries, many others can be treated without surgery.
For example, arthroscopic surgical techniques – camera-guided diagnostics and procedures – utilize precise imaging and guidance through a small incision. A camera images the affected area from inside the body and helps guide the physician, who then delivers precision treatment through the same incision. Because these treatments are less invasive, the procedure and recovery times are shorter.
Other treatments go even further than the physician’s repair by using the body’s own healing powers to revitalize injured or worn tissue. Called “regenerative medicine,” these techniques concentrate the body’s natural cell-building tools and apply them directly into the affected area through short-term injections or long-term therapy. Fresh new tissue replaces the worn or damaged area. In effect, these treatments use the body to heal itself, only on a faster, more concentrated schedule.
What Are Some Common Ailments That Can Be Fixed by Orthopedics?
Everyone’s body wears in its own individual way. People who are athletic, however, often experience injury or repetitive trauma in joints that are characteristic of their sport. These injuries can be acute, meaning that they’ve just happened, or chronic, which is a condition where the repetitive wear reaches the point of needing medical attention.
Three of the most common joints to experience injury or trauma for people that are athletic and active include the knee, the shoulder and the elbow. All are extremely treatable by an orthopedic specialist.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most easily injured. It is made up of four main components: bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. While even non-athletes can develop knee pain over the course of their lives from wear or injury, this all-important joint is a special risk for athletes. Repetitive shocks, extended movements, demanding torque from jumping and in-action falls all expose the knee to breaks, sprains, and torn, damaged tissue.
Arthroscopy has become a favored method for treating knee problems. Many knee injuries involve multiple areas of trauma near the injury. Arthroscopy allows the doctor to see them up close from the inside and administer precision treatment. Because of the small size of the incision, recovery times from these procedures are much faster than with open surgery. After arthroscopic knee surgery, patients can return home within 1-2 hours.
Each of the joints in the knees are cushioned by two C-shaped wedges of cartilage. Both of these cushions are known as menisci; one of them is called a meniscus. The knee’s meniscus can tear as the result of a specific dramatic motion, such as twisting the knee, or even through an otherwise harmless motion, like using a staircase. Torn menisci can be corrected arthroscopic surgery.
One of the body’s most important ligaments is at the center of the knee and known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This sturdy ligament helps connect the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), which are two of the biggest bones in the body. When this ligament is torn to greater or lesser degrees, normal knee functionality can be compromised. Arthroscopic ACL reconstruction can help restore healthy knee function and help patients regain mobility and performance.
The knee has a natural lubricant called “synovial fluid” that provides cushioning for this complicated joint. Over the course of time, this cushioning can become degraded by conditions like arthritis. With visco-supplementation, a gel-like solution is administered into the joint of the knee to replace the cushioning and provide new comfort.
The shoulder is made up of several joints that combine with tendons and muscles to allow a wide range of motion in the arm. These range from easy activities like scratching your back to demanding tasks like throwing fastballs or making a tennis serve. Over the course of time, athletic people can experience trauma to the soft or bony structures in the shoulder. These can be addressed and solved by an orthopedic specialist.
Just as is true with the knee, arthroscopic procedures can be highly beneficial and minimally invasive for shoulder problems. Through the thin tube of the arthroscope, the doctor will be able to see within the joints, examine what may be causing pain or discomfort, and treat the issue with the appropriate restorative techniques.
Rotator Cuff Repair
The rotator cuff is a collection of tendons and muscles that keeps the head of the humerus – the bone of the upper arm – in place inside the socket of the shoulder. Tears in the rotator cuff of the shoulder are common among people who work physically demanding jobs or are active in sports. Golfers and baseball pitchers dread damage to this tissue. Less-invasive arthroscopic procedures are now routinely used to repair a tear in the rotator cuff.
A SLAP (superior labrum anterior-posterior) tear is a rip in the ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket. These often-subtle tears are ripe for arthroscopic treatment, which can assess damage and allow doctors to determine the appropriate medical course with close-up precision. To keep patients comfortable, arthroscopic SLAP repair is performed under general and regional anesthesia.
People who begin experiencing pain when they raise their arm may be suffering from a subacromial impingement. This condition occurs when the tendons in the shoulder create friction against the acromion, which is a part of the shoulder blade. Through an arthroscope procedure, the doctor can repair the damage and relieve shoulder pain.
Some of the most exciting advancements in medicine fall under the heading of regenerative therapies. In this method, the body uses its own natural healing agents to grow fresh, healthy tissue in the areas that have been worn or damaged. The growth agents are harvested from the patient’s own body and then precisely re-introduced into the damaged area. The result is a natural healing process that can be remarkably fast and effective.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
PRP is an all-natural solution that can repair afflicted tissue or joints on a cellular level. It has been used effectively on professional athletes for years, and the technique is now available to all. PRP can help relieve pain and enhance the body’s recovery from damage. In PRP therapy, the doctor takes a blood sample from the patient’s body, which is then spun in a centrifuge.
While the sample is spinning, blood platelets – tiny cells that clot bleeding and contain cellular growth agents – are extracted and concentrated and mixed with plasma fluid, which creates PRP. The PRP is then administered into the injured joint, often through a simple injection.
Once the PRP solution arrives at the treatment area, the body’s immune system is quick to react. White blood cells process the damaged cells and help prepare the injured site for repair. Over time, new cells multiply, restoring and reconstructing the injured tissue. PRP can relieve the pain associated with elbow, shoulder or knee injuries, as well as many other conditions. It is quicker than other procedures and does not require downtime for recovery.
As an alternative or sometimes companion to arthroscopic or regenerative approaches, visco-supplementation is a lubricating treatment for the joints. The therapy uses hyaluronic acid, which is a natural molecule found in the joints which acts as a cushion to decrease friction. By enhancing lubrication in the joints, visco-supplementation can reduce pain and discomfort and improve motion, particularly for people who are experiencing arthritic symptoms.
What Should I Look for in an Orthopedic Specialist?
Today’s medicine offers many breakthrough technologies and therapies, but human medical expertise is what brings them together for effective recovery results. Even though many athletic injuries are common to particular sports, every individual body is different and every injury is unique in its own severity.
The best treatment comes through three avenues to the patient. First, there must be precision imaging to assess the damage. Arthroscopy and other advanced imaging techniques are essential for this task.
Next, there must be the medical experience to make the correct diagnosis and present the patient with their best treatment options. Finally, there’s the expertise to deliver the treatment successfully and guide the recovery and follow-up. While medicine gets better and better, there’s still no substitute for experience to guide treatment and recovery.
Get the Best Treatment
Over the past two decades, Dr. Angelo Mattalino of Angelo Mattalino, MD has cared for numerous amateur and professional athletes locally and around the world. His orthopedic credentials include treating athletes from major league baseball teams, Olympians and members of the International Baseball Federation.
Active people with an injury to the knee, shoulder or elbow, or who are experiencing orthopedic pain can find relief and start on the road to recovery. Contact Angelo Mattalino, MD in Phoenix, AZ today to see how you can begin to live pain-free again and return to the lifestyle you love.