New treatment icing away knee pain

July 18, 2018 05:46 PM

As communities battle the opioid epidemic, doctors are finding new ways to control pain without drugs. A new treatment literally ices knee pain with no reported side effects. The treatment is called Iovera and it takes less than 10 minutes to bring relief.

Walking into the doctor's office is a bit of a challenge for Henry Johnson. Just shy of his 90th birthday, the Saratoga Springs resident suffers osteoarthritis in his knees.


He's hoping his right knee will be pain-free once he undergoes Iovera treatment - the same treatment that recently relieved his left knee pain.

Simply put, pain management specialist Dr. Amar Parikh with Ortho NY will put the pain on ice.

"Freezing the nerve between negative 20 and negative 80 degrees Celsius," he explained.

This is how it's done: Dr. Parikh pinpoints the location of the nerve to be treated. Then, freeze spray is applied to the skin - followed by the insertion of three very tiny needles that deliver a cold shot to the nerve.

"We are taking off the covering of the nerve and then irritating the actual nerve itself. Not destroying, just irritating the nerve," noted Parikh.

That nerve only conducts sensation. It's not involved in strength.

"So the idea is that by blocking the nerve itself, the nerve can't fire. Even though there may be a painful response coming from that area, the nerve doesn't conduct, which then doesn't transmit information to your spinal cord, which then doesn't transmit to the brain," pointed out Parikh.

Relief lasts five to six months. It's effective for mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee. It's also used to treat chronic headache.

Iovera does not interfere with other drugs patients may be taking. Because it's so well tolerated, Iovera is also used prior to knee replacement surgery to control post-surgery pain, reducing the need for opioid pain killers by 45 percent, Dr. Parikh explained.

"We ice three of the nerves before knee replacement. There are many nerves, but these three are pure sensory nerves," he said.

As for Johnson, post treatment, his movement was less labored, so I asked if he was ready to take his wife dancing. 

"Yeah, we'll go dancing," he smiled.

Because the sensory nerves are so deep in the hip, Iovera is not used to treat pain in that joint. Some -- but not all insurance, covers Iovera treatment.


Benita Zahn

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