Having now reached the end of the festive season and with a semblance of normality returning to life, we are back in the seat with a short one on Arthritis.
Having recently had this added to my considerable medical CV (Parody … not an actual medical CV, sometimes the list of broken things feels like a CV). , I thought it an apt one following many days of walking and getting out over the holidays. I like to walk and be outdoors, but as I am discovering, following the diagnosis of a calcified meniscus in the left knee following a rather serious tear, this can be uncomfortable and rather painful at times. Not deterred though I remain active and can proudly boast that I still have ability to walk 10 miles and more. I attribute this to more of a bullheaded mind set of not accepting being simply the sum of my body rather than anything else. I don’t like being told I can’t or shouldn’t do somehting because of a minor medical issue. So while I’m no Proclaimer, and 500 may be too many miles, the tens of miles are plenty good enough. Anyway, I digress.
According to the NHS, arthritis is a common condition, coming in two main varieties, that causes pain and inflammation in a joint affecting some 10 million people in the UK of all ages including adults and children. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis.
This is the most common type, affecting around 9 million people in the UK. In most cases it affects adults over 40 years of age and is most common in people with a family history but can occur at any age as a result of injury as is the case with my own knee. It can also be associated with other joint conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis makes movement more difficult than usual following its initial impact on the smooth cartilage lining of joints. This leads to stiffness and pain commonly associated with the resultant inflammation.
Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. Cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out and tendons and ligaments need to work harder. This leads to swelling, and even the formation of bony spurs called osteophytes. In severe case this can lead to bone rubbing on bone which can change the shape of the joint and changing of normal bone positions. The most commonly affected joints are those in the spine, hands, knees and hips.
Some 400 000 people in the UK are affected by rheumatoid arthritis and it usually occurs in those aged between 40 and 50 years. Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in that the body’s immune system targets affected joints causing pain and swelling. (inflammation).
The synovium, or outer covering of the joint is affected in its initial stages. Following this it can spread across the joint leading to further swelling, (inflammation), and a change in the joints shape. This can lead to the bone breaking down.
To the astute reader it will be obvious that the word inflammation is emboldened a number of times in the above paragraphs.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward, and has been previously discussed in the article, OXYGEN AS AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.
Oxygen is a fabulous and extremely effective anti-inflammatory agent. Especially when administered in the hyperbaric environment.
Hyperbaric oxygen is well known to rapidly reduce swelling and with it any associated pain from any number of causes including arthritis.
Inflammation is often associated with redness and swelling as more blood is shunted to the affected area. This then leads to further inflammatory response as fluid permeates through capillary walls causing the area to swell and become hypoxic, triggering yet further hypoxic and inflammatory response. This is discussed in more detail in the articles entitled HYPOXIA – THE COMMON DENOMINATOR IN DISEASE, INJURY AND ILL HEALTH , as well as the one entitled ALTITUDE, THE HYPEROXIC HYPOXIA PARADOX, AND THE COMMON SENSE PARADOX and also HYPOXIA INDUCIBLE FACTOR 1 & WOUND HEALING IN DIABETICS. As explained there, this response can then become its own self-perpetuating cycle. Hyperbaric oxygenation arrests this inflammatory cycle when it becomes the new injurious pathology, and can reverse chronic inflammation and by association, significantly diminish pain without drug therapy.
In the interests of representing this properly, HBOT will not cure arthritis. In fact very little will do outside of joint replacement surgery. The reason is that cartilage itself is avascular, (devoid of or deficient of blood vessels), and as such doesn’t really heal following damage. Healing requires oxygen. HBOT in this instance is unable to affect the cartilage itself, outside of perhaps minor improvement following hyperoxygenation of synovial fluid. What it does do though is provide symptomatic relief from inflammation which is one of the chief characteristics of arthritis. Arthritic joints often feel hot or warm, may be red and swollen, and this is down to the inflammation caused by the original condition. HBOT wont mechanically change the bones or cartilage but it does relieve inflammation. Incidentally most other treatments for arthritis also only treat the inflammation for example: steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and other analgesic therapies. Therapies involving exercise, massage and joint movements also target inflammation by shunting fluid away from the site through muscle and tissue movement.
HBOT is a powerful anti inflammatory and the results are remarkable. In most other conditions and cases HBOT is only effective after many treatments. For inflammation it begins to act immediately. To read more on the mechanisms of this action and how HBOT makes blood vessels less permeable thus restricting fluid transport into tissue read the articles mentioned above on inflammation and hypoxia. In fact, many of the articles posted here involve at least some discussion on inflammation. This action is so effective it is often used as an emergency neuro-protective measure in cases of encephalitis (swollen and inflamed brain).
When I damaged my knee back in January 2019, it was HBOT that kept me on my feet and a follow up later in the summer that reversed much of the damage to neighboring tissue. All that remains now is to remove the pieces and it will be on top form once again.
Anyone suffering from arthritis should seriously consider giving HBOT a trial. It really does work, and there are a great many charitable chambers around the UK which can offer truly affordable therapy.