How Osteoarthritis can change your life

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“Stone, Paper, Pencil, Rubber, Scissors…”

“Stone, paper, pencil, rubber, scissors…” the chorus voice of the children were buzzing continuously with intense excitement. The children in the flat were having a whale of time outside Arjun’s window. He peeped out a few times to see their activity. He sighed and felt a lump in his throat.

Not too long ago, Arjun used to join them while returning from his running practice sessions; he’d once been a state-level runner. Recurrent trauma to his ligaments caused him to experience early osteoarthritis of the knees. Running was impossible for him now, as he needed support even to walk. Well-wishers, friends, relatives, and people from all walks of life offered Arjun advice on possible medical or alternative health remedies. The situation appeared almost hopeless, as Arjun’s health was impacted by two factors: his broken will, along with his knees draped across the table in a deadlocked position. In our childhood, Arjun and I were like two peas in a pod. After I moved to Florida, USA, however, our schedules became increasingly busy, and our communication less frequent. During my return to India, I experienced profound shock upon witnessing Arjun in this state and hearing him speak about his incredible agony.

I sprung to action quickly. I had heard about a treatment called “stem cell therapy” while in Florida. I made an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon in the area, who was skilled in performing these procedures. Desperate for relief, Arjun agreed to further explore this mode of treatment. Having long suffered from osteoarthritis, the encouraging session with the doctor provided him with greater insight into the medical condition. Beyond simply diagnosing Arjun’s knee, the physician thoroughly reviewed all of the reports and provided a comprehensive assessment of his mental and physical health. The doctor’s words were very comforting to Arjun, as he had long suffered from depression due to his physical challenges.

The Doctor’s Explanation

Osteoarthritis, the doctor explained to us, is a degenerative disease of the joints. This could be due to multiple factors, including ageing, genetics, obesity, and injury from trauma or illness. It’s a common form of chronic arthritis that affects millions worldwide. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is joint pain and swelling due to the inflammation after repetitive use. Although it can damage any joint in the body, the disorder most commonly affects knees, hips, spine and small joints of the hands and feet. In Arjun’s case, early osteoarthritis had been brought on by injury.

The doctor clarified matters far better than any of the medical practitioners that Arjun had visited previously. He explained that the ends of the bones are covered with a protein substance – a firm, slippery tissue called cartilage. It’s the protective cushion between two joints that provides virtually frictionless joint movement. Osteoarthritis occurs when this cartilage breaks down or is eventually lost from one or more joints. Loss of the cartilage causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and restriction of joint movement. Inflammation of the cartilage can also fuel new bone outgrowths (spurs, also referred to as osteophytes) to form around the joints.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

  • Ageing is the primary factor contributing to osteoarthritis. With age, the water content of the cartilage increases and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates.
  • Following ageing, obesity is the second most dominant risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knees. Growing mechanical stress on the cartilage is the root cause of obesity-related osteoarthritis.
  • The early development of osteoarthritis of the knees among athletes is widespread. Weightlifters, runners, football players and others actively engaged in sports and dance are highly prone to experiencing early osteoarthritis. Recurrent trauma to joint tissues (ligaments, bones, and cartilage) is believed to lead to early osteoarthritis of the knees

Other factors underlying osteoarthritis include gout, diabetes, and growth hormone disorder

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The symptoms associated with osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain – The joints may hurt during, or after, movement.
  • Inflammation – There can be inflammation, hotness, and swelling of the affected joints
  • Stiffness – Joint stiffness may be felt after waking up in the morning. It could also occur after long periods of inactivity, such as sitting in an auditorium
  • Loss of flexibility – Limited movements of joints may occur.
  • Bone spurs – In the worst case, the bones may break down and develop growths called spurs. Bits of bone or cartilage may damage and soar around in the joint.

The doctor informed us that osteoarthritis symptoms can vary significantly from patient to patient. There could be recurrent symptoms as well: it is common for patients with osteoarthritis to experience long periods of pain-free breaks between symptoms.

Traditional Treatment for Osteoarthritis:

The orthopaedic surgeon candidly and emphatically stated that there is no cure for osteoarthritis. Treatments are, however, available to help manage the symptoms. Treatments include oral pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, physical exercise, intra-articular injections, and surgery for joint replacements. However, nothing can reverse the underlying process of cartilage degeneration or repair damaged cartilage in osteoarthritis.

The doctor then brought up the topic of stem cell therapy – which I’d eagerly awaited. Stem cell therapy is an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis, one which he described as the “future of medicine.” While I’d heard the term, I was very unfamiliar with the specifics of these procedures. He then shared with us his additional knowledge about the treatment.

Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis Treatment:

Stem cell therapy – also known as “regenerative medicine” – has emerged as an exciting and promising treatment for osteoarthritis. In these procedures, adult stem cells are derived from the patient’s own adipose tissue, bone marrow or peripheral blood. They are then transplanted intravenously and directly into the affected joints to REPLENISH, REPAIR, and REGENERATE tissues in these areas. Stem cells are given intravenously to rejuvenate the body, thereby boosting the immune system and decreasing any inflammatory process. Stem cell therapy helps to regenerate the cartilage, which is the crux of the problem in osteoarthritis. In doing so, the treatment also reduces inflammation and provides pain relief. Stem cells are magnificent, in the sense that they are undifferentiated cells that can differentiate into any kind of cells required in the body. Beyond stem cell therapy alone, however, lifestyle changes, exercise, proper diet, and weight management are critical to maximizing improvement.

At The End of the Tunnel

This treatment represented the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for us. Armed with this invaluable information, we requested an appointment with the Stem Cell Center in Punjab, India. Arjun has been undergoing treatment for 6 months now, with me at his side to provide emotional support. We have resumed our morning walks together. The jubilant smile is back on my friend’s face. Today was my birthday, and Arjun chased me back throughout the ground floor to the 1st floor to give a “cake facial” to the birthday boy!

Someone had said, “Life is beautiful, only you need to know how to celebrate it.”

Yes of course!

Cheers to life!