If you have osteoarthritis (OA), you probably know it’s a common joint disease that wears down your cartilage. Once that cartilage is damaged or missing, there’s not much you can do to bring it back, so why is there talk about reversing OA?
Our experts at Revive Spine and Pain Center are here to set the record straight and update you on the latest OA research.
Let’s answer: Is OA curable, treatable, or reversible? Living with arthritis means different things to different people. Since OA can affect any joint with any degree of severity, your symptoms could range from mild and occasional to unbearable and constant. Wherever you land on that spectrum, you likely want to know how to manage OA, so we’ve addressed the three most common questions here.
No, OA isn’t curable yet, but researchers continue to seek ways to prevent the disease and stop it in its tracks.
Yes, we can treat your OA symptoms and help you live a comfortable, active life.
In fact, activity is one of the best things you can do for osteoarthritis because it keeps your joints lubricated and limber. We can recommend some OA-friendly exercises that ease your pain and stiffness.
And if you’re overweight, exercise can help you shed pounds and remove one of the main culprits behind OA.
In addition to those on-your-own activities, we may prescribe physical therapy to ensure you strengthen your support muscles and give your joints a better chance of staying mobile.
Depending on your condition, we might recommend prescription medication if OTC anti-inflammatories don’t help.
One of the quickest ways to relieve OA pain is with a corticosteroid injection. If your arthritic joint is swollen, red, warm, and painful, it may be tough to participate in joint-friendly activities, but a joint injection helps in two ways. First, it contains a local anesthetic called lidocaine that gives you immediate relief.
Second, it contains a steroid that reduces inflammation, so your relief lasts weeks or months, and you can engage in physical therapy and other healing activities.
Another injectable treatment is Orthovisc® viscosupplementation. When OA attacks your joints, your cartilage breaks down, and you lose the hyaluronic acid fluid that naturally coats and protects the ends of your bones. A viscosupplementation injection replaces that fluid with a fresh supply of hyaluronic acid to reduce friction and restore the slippery environment that allows your joint to function properly. You may not notice immediate relief, but over time, the extra lubrication makes it easier to move your joint.
Finally, braces and crutches may help you get around when you have a flare-up and when the disease progresses. Surgery is also an option for severe osteoarthritis.
It depends on how long you’ve had OA and how you define the term reversible.
Emerging research has shown some promising results in the treatment of OA when it’s detected early. To understand how this works, let’s look at what happens when you develop osteoarthritis.
When OA sets in, the first problem is inflammation, particularly in the bursa sac protecting your joint. This is important to note because, for many years, researchers focused on the lost cartilage linked with OA, not the early inflammation stage that triggers the problem.
The inflammation then spreads to the synovial fluid, your joint’s lubricating substance. Next, the cartilage begins to erode, thinning out, tearing, and deteriorating. Eventually, bones rub against bones and trigger bone spurs that catch on your joint tissues and cause further pain and inflammation. Finally, your bones change shape, becoming distorted and dysfunctional.
Now, for the good news. Studies show that certain cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can disrupt the inflammatory response in the early stages of OA.
Using innovative techniques from the field of regenerative medicine, we can harvest MSCs from your bone marrow and inject them into your OA-affected joint. If we can halt the inflammation before it sets off the avalanche of damage, we may be able to delay OA and slow its progression.
Although OA is technically not reversible — yet — we can often make you feel as if we reversed it. In fact, the MSC study we mentioned showed that about 80% of OA patients had less pain and better joint mobility, and ultrasound imaging backed up their claims, showing that their joint tissues’ degeneration had slowed considerably.
At Revive Spine & Pain Center, we have a team of specialists keeping abreast of the latest research and offering the most advanced treatments. If you have OA, schedule an appointment at one of our three New Jersey locations in Marlton, Hamilton Township, and East Brunswick to find out if our OA treatments can help you. Call or click today.