Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. It is the most common cause of pain and leads to progressive loss of mobility, joint swelling and stiffness. Osteoarthritis involves the loss of cartilage and damage to the underlying bone. The causes of osteoarthritis are genetics, obesity, prior trauma to the joint, and occupational and recreational activities that stress the joints. There is no cure for osteoarthritis but there are a number of treatment options.

Figure 1: Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the knees, hips, ankles, toes, and facet joints in the spine. These are called weight-bearing joints. It can also affect the hands. Damage to the cartilage leads to loss of joint space, pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty walking. 

Treatment options:

1. Life style modification means that you do things to stop damaging the joint such as losing weight and eliminating activities that put stress on the joints.

2. Exercises to improve the strength of the muscles that support the joints and improve range of motion.

3. Taking nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and Chondroitin and MSM. These can be effective in some people but not all.

4. Taking anti-inflammatory medication can help the pain in some people but are not recommended for long-term use as it causes damage to the stomach and the kidneys that can lead to ulcers and high blood pressure.

5. Cortisone injections can provide temporary pain relief. Cortisone is a strong anti-inflammatory, which will reduce the pain. However it can be toxic to cartilage and bone and repeated injections can cause long-term damage to the joint.

6. Hyaluronic acid injections into the joint can lubricate the joint and provide temporary pain relief for weeks or months.

7. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections can also improve pain by reducing inflammation. Platelets are made in the bone marrow and are the main components of blood clots. They contain many types of growth factors, which are involved in healing after injuries. PRP involves removing blood from a person’s arm, separating the platelets and injecting them into the arthritic joint. Combining PRP treatments with physiotherapy can provide pain relief and improve mobility in arthritic joints.

8. Stem cell therapy involves the injection of cells that are taken from the person’s own bone marrow or fat tissue, processed and injected into the joint. This can reduce inflammation, which eliminates the pain and can lead to some regeneration of the cartilage. Combining this with physiotherapy can improve the joint stiffness and mobility leading to an improved quality of life. This can delay the need for a joint replacement for years.

9. Radiofrequency ablation of the nerves that transmit pain signals from the joint to the brain can relieve the pain for many months and can be repeated if and when the pain recurs. It does not treat the arthritis but relieves the pain. This is a procedure that is very effective for people with chronic back pain (facet joint rhizotomies) and also works for people with hip or knee pain due to arthritis. This can also be done to provide pain relief while waiting for a joint replacement.

10. Hip or knee arthroplasty is a surgical joint replacement. Orthopedic surgeons cut out the arthritic joint and replace it with an artificial joint made of metal and synthetic material. Recovery time is usually three months. There are risks to surgery such as infections and there is no guarantee of success but most people have good outcomes.

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by the person’s symptoms and by diagnostic imaging, which includes x-rays or MRI scans. The Welcome Back Clinic can provide expedited consults with an orthopedic surgeon and can also perform cortisone injections, radiofrequency ablation, PRP and stem cell therapy. For more information call 250-828-6740 or email us at info@welcomebackclinic.com

Using Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Osteoarthritis