Freezing Knees, Stopping Pain

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More than 10-million Americans suffer from knee pain. Drugs and surgery can be a fix, but now, there's a better option for some patients and doctors are freezing away the pain! (KFSN)

More than 10-million Americans suffer from knee pain. Drugs and surgery can be a fix, but now, there's a better option for some patients and doctors are freezing away the pain!

SubmitSixteen-year-old Abbey Watson has been running her whole life.

Watson told Ivanhoe, "I did my first 5k when I was four years old!"

The cross country athlete has even gone to states. But recently, knee pain slowed her down.

She said, "Every time I stepped down, it would send a shock through my legs."

Abbey had a condition where growth spurts caused painful swelling right below her knee. Vernon Williams, MD, Director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, California offered her a way to freeze away the pain. It's called focused cold therapy.

SubmitDr. Williams explained, "That focused cold therapy allows us to reduce the temperature of a peripheral nerve to a very precise zone."

Doctors locate the nerve that's responsible for the pain. They then numb the area and insert a cold probe with liquid nitric oxide to freeze the nerve.

Dr. Williams told Ivanhoe, "And that results in just turning that nerve off temporarily, so it's unable to send pain signals."

The cold therapy reaches negative 120 degrees. It doesn't damage surrounding tissues and doesn't kill the nerve. The relief lasts a few months.

SubmitAbbey noticed a difference right away.

"I ran the next day, and it was already significantly better" she exclaimed.

Now she's setting her goals high with no pain holding her back!

Watson said, "I'm looking forward to going to state, and we're even hoping to make nationals."

The cold therapy procedure can be used for any kind of pain where a peripheral nerve is involved. Dr. Williams says he even uses it to relieve headaches in some of his patients. By the way, Abbey and her team won state!

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Freezing Knees, Stopping Pain -- Research Summary

BACKGROUND: Knee pain is a common problem among adults. At least 19 percent of the population suffers from knee problems. While older adults are more likely to experience knee pain, problems can occur at any age. "We're seeing a lot more teenagers and adolescent athletes with musculoskeletal injuries," said Vernon Williams, MD, Director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. Knee problems can be the result of a pre-existing condition or trauma. Ligament strains, osteoarthritis, fractures, and weight problems are just some of the many causes of knee pain. X-Rays may be able to pin-point signs of a fracture or the early onset of osteoarthritis, but aren't helpful in detecting soft tissue issues such as ligament strains or meniscal tears. Treatment varies based on the diagnosed cause. Surgery, occupational therapy, and steroid injections are some treatments available. (Source: http://www.myvmc.com/diseases/knee-pain/)

WHAT CAUSES PAIN: When you feel pain, the sensation is largely brought on by nerves. Nerves are long fibers that gather and send information to the brain. Peripheral nerves are scattered throughout the body to pick up signals. They connect the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, to the rest of the body. Some peripheral nerves are specialized to be receptive to temperature; others are sensitive to pick up on pain. Nociceptors are nerves that trigger the sensation of pain. When the nociceptor is triggered, it emits a signal in the form of an electrical charge. That signal is then passed on from nerve to nerve until it reaches the spinal cord, where the central nervous system sends back a response that may cause a quick reflex to the pain. For example, after you feel the burn of placing your hand on a hot stove, your first instinct is to take your hand off the stove. The signal continues from the spinal cord to the brain, where it is processed as pain. Emotions and more complex thinking processes then begin to form a reaction to the pain signal. (Source: http://pain.about.com/od/whatischronicpain/a/feeling_pain.htm)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Sufferers of knee pain can look to a treatment known as ioverao or focused cold therapy to help relieve the pain. Doctors use a device that contains liquid nitrous oxide to expose targeted parts of the body to a temperature of negative 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This cools the pain-causing nerve without damaging or killing the nerve or surrounding tissue. Killing the nerve would cause even more pain. Instead, the cold temperature numbs the nerve and keeps it from sending pain signals. The procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is usually performed without general anesthesia. The induced effect is temporary and typically lasts two to three months. There are very few side effects, but some have experienced bruising and soreness. The treatment cannot be used on central nervous system nerves or mixed nerves. (Source: http://ioverahealth.com/how_it_works.php#history)

LONG TERM: Dr. Williams says "There are no negative long term effects of the procedure, even if done several times...in some cases (like Abbey's) we expect the issue causing her pain to gradually improve/resolve, so she may or may not need further procedures."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Cheryl Aasa
Administrative Assistant to Dr. Vernon Williams
Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic
310-665-7286
cheryl.aasa@kerlanjobe.com
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