Myths and Facts about Arthritis

When 56-year-old Lalitha was diagnosed with osteoarthritis her orthopaedic consultant advised her to take it easy and not walk too much. However, staying off her feet didn’t do her any good. On her next visit to her diabetologist, she was asked to lose weight to help manage her condition better. When she confessed that she wasn’t walking too much of late, leave alone exercise, her doctor chided her and asked her to remain active. Osteoarthritis was no reason to stop walking, he said.

Understandably, Lalitha was confused. The common perception among the general population is that a person with osteoarthritis should limit their physical activities to limit the strain on their joints. Experts point out that this is not required. “In fact, a patient with osteoarthritis should make sure that they go for regular walks and do some muscle strengthening exercises. The only difference is that they should try and walk on flat surfaces and wear good walking shoes,” says Dr KJ Reddy, senior orthopaedic consult and knee specialist at Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills.

Physiotherapy, he says, is one of the key factors in treating osteoarthritis. “Patients should be trained by a physiotherapist to strengthen their muscles, especially the quadriceps. This way their muscles can share the load that falls on the joints. A lot of people seem to think that walking wears their joints. This is not true. In fact, it strengthens muscles aiding the joints,” he explains.

Osteoarthritis affects many people. But there are many misconceptions associated with the condition. We get experts to throw more light on the myths and facts about Osteoarthritis.

Shekhar had always been an active person. Apart from his regular gymming schedule, he would also participate in marathons and cycling rallies. Needless to say, he was also a stickler for a healthy diet. However, as he approached his 50s, he began to notice that he couldn’t be as agile as earlier, and no, this was no age-related slow down. His knees were beginning to bother him and one day the pain got so bad that he finally agreed to visit a doctor. A series of tests later he was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process. A normal person injures his cartilage in his day-to-day activities. However, the body can repair this damage. But, in people with osteoarthritis, the body’s ability to repair this cartilage damage is defective. It is one of the commonest forms of arthritis,” explains Dr. K. J. Reddy, Senior Orthopedic Consultant and Knee Specialist.

Osteoarthritis is generally seen in middle-aged people. According to Dr. Reddy, there are two types of osteoarthritis, primary and secondary. “The primary kind occurs later in life, usually after the age of 50 years. The secondary kind, as the name suggests, is secondary to a pre-existing condition. For instance, an accident that damages the knee joint is likely to result in osteoarthritis. Or for that matter an infection in the joints, deformity due to rickets, Fluorosis or abnormal weight bearing on the joints can all lead to osteoarthritis,” he says.

Osteoarthritis usually occurs with pain, stiffness, and swelling around the joints. As the ailment progresses, it can lead to complete stiffness of the joints. A person with osteoarthritis will have decreased mobility and climbing stairs or sitting on the floor will be rather difficult for them.

There are four stages of this ailment. While stage 1 can be treated with medication and physiotherapy, stages 2 and 3 can be treated with stem cell therapy or joint fluid injections. An arthroscopic surgery (endoscopic) can be done to preserve the knee and repair it. However, in stage 4 the damage is complete and a knee replacement surgery is required,” further adds Dr. Reddy.

While the condition cannot be reversed, its progression can be slowed down,” says Dr. Reddy. “Research is still on to find a way to reverse the condition. However, physiotherapy is of key importance in the treatment, as it helps build muscle strength. This way the load can be borne by the muscles and not the joints alone.”