Osteoarthritis is a form of joint disease that results in pain, swelling and stiffness. It is the most common type of arthritis. It results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, and from failure of the body to repair the cartilage damage. Cartilage is the tissue that covers the surface of the bone within a joint. It is normally smooth, allowing joints to move without any friction. Damage to the cartilage exposes the underlying bone and results in inflammation and further damage to the joint.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include age. The incidence of osteoarthritis increases as we get older. Women are affected more often than men. Genetics is also a key factor. Some people are programmed to get osteoarthritis, similar to getting grey hair and wrinkles. Prior injury such as in sports can cause damage to the cartilage, which ultimately leads to the development of osteoarthritis. Jobs that put stress on the joints such as repetitive lifting can lead to arthritis. Being overweight puts more stress on the knees, hips and the spine that can cause osteoarthritis.

The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain but can also include swelling and stiffness. Osteoarthritis affects mostly the weight-bearing joints, which includes the knees, hips, toes and the spine but can also involve the joints in the fingers and the shoulders. Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by the person’s symptoms, and by x-rays or MRI scans of the joints.

There is currently no cure for Osteoarthritis. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication, exercise, weight-loss, and joint replacement as a last resort. Cortisone injections can provide temporary pain relief but repeat injections can cause damage to the cartilage resulting in worsening arthritis. Injections of hyaluronic acid can help lubricate the joint and provide temporary pain relief.

Stem cell therapy is a new form of treatment for osteoarthritis. Stem cells are derived from the person’s bone marrow or adipose tissue (fat) and then injected into the joint. It is still experimental but has been shown to be effective in animals and in people. Stem cells work by decreasing inflammation. Stem cells also have the ability to repair the cartilage. This could delay the need for a joint replacement for a number of years. Combining stem cell therapy with physiotherapy can relieve the pain, reduce the swelling and improve mobility in the joint.

Using Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Osteoarthritis