Question:I've heard there's a heat treatment to shrink loose joints. My 13-year old daughter has very loose joints. Sometimes it's a problem when she's trying to do something in gymnastics that requires strength and stability. Could this treatment help her?
Answer:There is a treatment method called thermal capsulorrhaphy used to treat shoulder instability. Usually the patients have injured the soft tissues around the joint or the cartilage around the shoulder socket.
The laser or radiofrequency energy heats the tissue up enough to damage some of the cells. As the tissue cools down, it contracts or tightens up. The process of healing the damaged tissue brings about more normal cells to replace the "loose" ones.
Immature or undeveloped tissue doesn't shrink like adult tissue. The bonds that form and hold the cells together aren't strong enough to withstand the heat. The proteins "melt" turning the tissue into jelly. The end result is an unstable rather than a "tight" joint.
Just the opposite happens in older adults. There are so many cross-links in aging tissue (that's what makes us stiff), shrinkage is very limited. It's unlikely this treatment would be recommended for your daughter. She may benefit more from a strengthening program. A physical therapist may be the best one to assess the stability of her joints and advise you.Anthony Miniaci, MD, FRCSC, and Michael J. Codsi, MD. Thermal Capsulorrhaphy for the Treatment of Shoulder Instability. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. August 2006. Vol. 34. No. 8. Pp. 1356-1363.
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