Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects joints, including the feet, shoulder, hips, knees, and hands.
A robust, smooth, slippery coat covers the bone surface called cartilage. This cartilage coating helps your bones to move freely against each other.
If a part of the cartilage becomes thin and the bone surface becomes rougher, the bones will not move freely. And this is the so-called wear and tear of the joint. The knee, hip and small joints of the hands are more prone to develop osteoarthritis because of more frequent weight-bearing and repetitive movement.
What are the four stages of osteoarthritis?
There are four stages of osteoarthritis, and the symptoms and signs are as follows.
- Stage 1: Minor
- Little to no pain
- Minor wear-and-tear of the joint
- Stage 2: Mild
- Stiffness sensation if you remain sedentary for a while
- You may require a brace
- Noticeable bone spur
- Stage 3: Moderate
- Joint inflammation and discomfort while doing everyday activities
- Cartilage in the affected area starts getting worn
- Stage 4: Sever
- Overgrown spur formation in the affected joint
- Severe pain and swelling
- Joint inflammation followed by the complete worn-out cartilage
What happens if the cartilage becomes thin?
Once the cartilage is damaged, the tissues within the joint work actively to repair the damage. This repair process may even change the joint structure. In this process, you may get joint pain, swelling, difficulty in joint movement, and stiffness. Or else, there will be an additional bone development at the edge of your joint called osteophytes. These outgrowths will restrict your movement by rubbing against the surrounding tissues.
Furthermore, the synovium (joint capsule lining) may also thicken and secrete more fluid. This secretion will swell up the joint region.
Since joint regions cannot move freely, they may develop cracking or grating sounds. The joint structure will become less stable, followed by the weakening of the muscles.
Usually, most of us develop osteoarthritis as we grow older, even if we are unaware of it. The degree of joint damage can determine the severity of pain and mobility issues.
What exactly causes osteoarthritis?
One of the most common causes of osteoarthritis is ‘wear and tear’. However, the risk of developing osteoarthritis depends on the following factors:
- Gender: Osteoarthritis is more severe and frequent in females compared to males.
- Age: Osteoarthritis more commonly develops in the late 40s. The body changes include weak muscles, reduced ability to heal itself, and weight gain are the primary reasons as we age.
- Obesity: Obesity is a major risk factor, especially when it comes to weight-bearing joints like the hip and knee.
- Joint Injury and Abnormalities: Repetitive activities can increase the risk of joint injuries that may lead to osteoarthritis. Other joint abnormalities such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can cause osteoarthritis.
- Heredity: Mutation of genes that affect a collagen protein may cause osteoarthritis at an earlier age.
- Weather Condition: The changes in weather conditions, especially the fall in atmospheric pressure, can worsen osteoarthritis’s pain and other symptoms. However, weather changes are not the cause of arthritis symptoms, but the cold weather can undoubtedly worsen the symptoms.
What are the target points affected by osteoarthritis?
All joints may develop osteoarthritis. However, osteoarthritis mainly affects the knee, shoulder, elbow, hip, spine, wrist, thumb, foot, ankle, neck, back, jaw (temporomandibular joint), and big toes.
Is it possible to diagnose osteoarthritis?
Yes. It is obligatory to diagnose accurately before proceeding with osteoarthritis treatment.
The diagnosis of this condition is based on the following:
- Symptoms – the starting point and the severity level of these symptoms
- Physical examination
- Restricted movement
- Joint tenderness
- Swelling of bones
- Weakness of muscles surrounding the affected joint
- Joint instability
- Grating or creaking sensation of the joint region called crepitus
- X-ray examination to determine if there is any calcium deposit in the joint region
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examination can determine the possible bone or joint problems that may trigger the above-listed symptoms
Is it possible to treat osteoarthritis?
Yes. The list of treatment methods that can manage your osteoarthritis symptoms includes the following:
- Initial home treatment – RICE formula: RICE represents Rest, Ice application, Compression, and Elevation. Take enough rest. Apply ice cubes to the affected region by wrapping them in a cloth. Wear compression bands to restrict the movement of the affected joint region. While taking a rest, keep the affected joint in an elevated position above your chest.
- Activity modification: Try to modify the routine activities until you find relief from arthritis symptoms. For instance, if you are a runner, stop running till your pain subsides. However, keep walking instead of running to maintain an active life.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapeutic exercises, including strengthening exercises, range of movement exercises, hydrotherapy, and aerobic exercises, can relieve osteoarthritis symptoms. Even cycling, walking, and swimming can help people get relief from pain.
- NSAIDs: Administration of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, physicians do not recommend them for long due to their significant side effects.
- Corticosteroid injections: Physicians recommend corticosteroid injections in case medications don’t work. However, repeated steroids can weaken the tendon around the affected joint region, making it more painful.
- Regenerative treatment: A natural and minimally invasive non-surgical orthobiologic treatment that kick starts the healing process by treating the underlying cause as well as symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Surgery: Physicians recommend surgery as the last option to treat osteoarthritis. The varied surgical options include:
- Joint replacement surgery
- Arthroscopic keyhole surgery to wash out loose bone fragments from the affected joint region
- Joint fusion – The joints are fixed together to prevent further movement.
Surgery has extensive post-surgical rehabilitation and permanently alters the joint in many osteoarthritis treatment cases. Hence, trying out all non-surgical osteoarthritis treatment options is advisable before surgery.
How can Regenerative Medicine help in osteoarthritis treatment?
Unlike the conventional treatment methods, regenerative medicine treats the underlying cause of the symptoms. And by healing, the underlying cause can treat your symptoms as well.
It is a revolutionary method where physicians use patients’ body cells for treatment. Hence, you do not undergo any significant side effects like allergy or rejection problems. Unlike other conventional treatment methods, this long-lasting, minimally invasive, and effective treatment also has a shorter recovery time. It is a same-day walk-in, walk-out procedure without any overnight hospital stay.
Time to take care of yourself
Living with osteoarthritis can affect a person emotionally and mentally. The continuous pain disturbs the sleep routine, and eventually, it will affect the person’s mood. And finally, the osteoarthritis pain will get on top of you.
If you feel low or are currently undergoing any such underlying symptoms or joint pain, contact Medica Stem Cells Clinic. Our medical team of orthopaedic surgeons and doctors is here to listen to your concerns and offer a suitable solution without any delays.
Earlier is better! Regenerative treatment intervention is likely to be more effective when it is provided in the earlier stages of osteoarthritis rather than later. Don’t wait until the pain becomes unbearable. Get it treated as soon as you notice changes or pain in your joint. So, reach out to us as soon as possible to enjoy a long-lasting pain-free life.