Treatments for Arthritis
Treatments fall into three categories. Lifestyle changes with physio, injections, or surgery. Most people will go through all three phases to some extent.
Physio and lifestyle
In the early stages of arthritis, painkillers, physiotherapy and strengthening the muscles will help. For elderly people walking sticks can be helpful but that is not ideal for youngsters! For people who are overweight then losing that excess can really help. For some people it may mean cutting out the things that make the joints hurt, but a lot of people don’t want to have to give up the things they love. This is where the next options fit in…
The most basic, cheap and cheerful option (liked by the NHS) is a steroid injection. This is a powerful anti-inflammatory injection to mask the problem. Unfortunately the benefit can be short lived and it can have effects on the immune system.
If people come to me before they are too bad I can often help with a special viscosupplement injection to lubricate the joint (also called Hyaluronic acid or Durolane). This is a very special injection into the joint which a bit is like an oil change. It makes the roughened surfaces move more easily and calms down the inflammation with a really good chance of improving your pain and stiffness for months and months, often a year or more. The good news is that it is really easy and usually almost pain-free. I do this for all sorts of joints around the body, but mostly the knee.
There is a more sophisticated type of injection therapy called Platelet Rich Plasma injections. These involve harnessing the body’s natural healing by taking some of your blood out (like a normal blood test), then filtering it and centrifuging it to separate out the healing factors. I then inject this into the knee.
You can read more about injection therapy here and there is some specific information about Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections (sometimes referred to as autologous conditioned plasma or ACP therapy) in the below downloadable pdf.
When joints are destroyed, no matter what the cause, the best solution is usually a joint replacement.
I specialize in knees and I don’t operate on other joints for arthritis. Lots of surgeons do all sorts of different things, but by specializing just in knees I have got very good at them. I do high-performance knee replacements (for high-performance people), robot-assisted knee replacements (for a perfect fit) as well as partial knee replacements (for when only part of the knee is worn out). This is a big subject, so I have made a separate page!
Read more about knee replacements here
Doctors have been trying to develop new methods of regenerating cartilage for many years. I have been involved with many of the techniques including things like cell based methods from your own bone marrow and using pieces of your own cartilage to grow more cartilage.
For some lucky patients this can be a good option.