What does arthritis mean?
Normal joints are near frictionless when they move in relation to each other. This is due to a thick layer of smooth material called cartilage that caps the ends of all joints. Wear & tear of day to day life & injury from sport or accidents causes this layer of cartilage to wear off, leading to naked bone rubbing against each other. This causes pain especially during standing & walking
What causes arthritis?
Arthritis is not a disease, rather a normal manifestation of aging. Just like our hair turn gray with age, our joints also become weaker with age & get worn away leading to arthritis. Other causes also co-exist like abnormally aligned legs (knock knees & bow legs), obesity, diabetes etc. Sometimes arthritis sets in at a young age (< 40 years). It is most often due to some in?ammation in the joint like rheumatoid arthritis. It requires intensive medical management & these days it is fully curable if seen by a good rheumatologist.
What are the treatment options apart from joint replacement?
Arthritis does not automatically mean a joint replacement. Simple measures like using a walking stick & doing regular exercise help in the early stages. If the alignment of the limb is not alright, then a simple operation called high tibial osteotomy, will help preserve your natural joint for a much longer time. In early stages injection of a substance called sodium hyaluranate (Synvisc One TM) helps immensely. It is a slow acting injection & bene?ts take up-to a month to kick in, but thereafter pain relief & improved mobility can last from 6 months to a year. Some specially designed braces also help in offloading the joint & relieve pain. Arthroscopy done judiciously will also help in improving the quality of life.
- ARTHROSCOPYdoes not have too much of a role in osteoarthritis unless there is locking due to a meniscus tear or a loose body
- INJECTIONSof steroid offer short term relief. Long term relief especially in early arthritis is obtained with injections like Synvisc OneTM.
- PAINKILLERSare helpful to tide over an acute painful crisis, but should not be taken on a regular basis. Apart from having the potential to cause stomach irritation, they can harm your kidneys as well.