Most of you know someone with osteoarthritis, or may have it yourself; it is a very common form of joint disease that is related to aging and wear and tear of joint surfaces. This can occur in any joint but commonly occurs in the load bearing joints, the hips, knees and spine. Our joints have a super smooth layer of cartilage as its surface which allows the bones to move easily on one another, synovial joint fluid aids in this movement providing lubrication and nourishing the cartilage. As we age the cartilage producing cells lose their ability to keep up with repair processes and the joint begins to wear down, cracks and fissures can occur in the cartilage and the joint may become painful.
Recently treatments have been developed to improve this situation. First we had the development of artificial joint fluid to help with the lubrication of the joint, to mixed success.
Next we had, PRP or platelet rich plasma, here the clinician removes some of your blood, spins it in a centrifuge to remove the red/white cells and increase the concentration of platelets in the plasma. Platelets are special blood components that help with clotting the blood after a cut but also have special proteins that can help repair tissues. There have been some positive results for tendon type injuries; famously Tiger Woods had this procedure done. More recently it has been tried for osteoarthritis of the knees primarily providing some relief of pain, no small thing for anyone suffering from knee osteoarthritis, but not the big prize, regeneration of the cartilage.
A newer treatment, uses stem cells, these cells are master type cells that can convert to certain cell types, i.e. in this case cells that produce cartilage. These cells are harvested typically from your iliac crest, the bones that you put a belt around. These cells are then injected into the knee in several studies have shown to have regenerated the cartilage, improved pain and function.
These newer treatments are still somewhat experimental, not covered by provincial health plans or employer health plans and range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The future looks promising for these newer treatments and perhaps a “cure” for osteoarthritis is around the corner. In the mean -time, maintain a good body-weight, exercise, and visit your chiropractor to keep the joints moving well.
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