According to the latest research, almost 10 million people in the UK now live with osteoarthritis. A quite staggering figure.
Given its prevalence, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s regularly the focus of news articles, blog posts and videos, many of which touch on the latest scientific research.
Each month, the Flexiseq team scours the web for the osteoarthritis-related stories that have caught our eye.
Here’s our latest roundup…
We start with the results of a new study conducted by three UK universities (Lancaster, the University of Central Lancashire & Manchester) that claims a tiny microphone can be used to diagnose 'noisy' arthritic knees.
The BBC reports that 89 adults with osteoarthritis were asked to stand up from a seated position five times while acoustic signals from their joints were recorded.
While not audible to the human ear, the results showed that the technique could 'hear' the difference between the signals produced by healthy knees and those suffering from wear and tear.
It's early days and more research is needed, but the technology could lead to better diagnosis of osteoarthritis and more personalised treatments.
In a worrying development, steroid injections that relieve painful osteoarthritis may not be as safe as previously thought. New research by scientists from Boston University looked at 459 osteoarthritis patients up to 15 months after they had the injection in their hips or knees.
The Atlantic relays that the team found 10% of those who had cortisone put into their hips saw their symptoms, namely joint pain and stiffness, worsen. The jab also left them more at risk of fractures and joint degeneration. Of those who had the injection in their knees, 4% suffered side effects.
Corticosteroid injections are often recommended for those who do not get relief with painkillers.
Speaking about the findings, lead author Dr Ali Guermazi said: Physicians do not commonly tell patients about the possibility of joint collapse or subchondral insufficiency fractures that may lead to earlier total hip or knee replacement.
“This information should be part of the consent when you inject patients with intra-articular corticosteroids.”
To America, where a new study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has examined the links between arthritis and social isolation.
Researchers say their findings, which were based on data made available by the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA), suggest that osteoarthritis can increase the risk of social isolation. In particular, having problems with thinking and making decisions, as well as having slower walking times, is associated with an increased risk of becoming socially isolated.
Since social isolation can lead to poorer health, the researchers suggest that older adults with arthritis may benefit from engaging in physical activity and social activities.
Can you do anything about hand and finger joint pain? That's the question posed by Harvard Medical School who share their advice for coping with osteoarthritis when it takes a toll on your ability to grip items. The story reports that 25% of all men experience some degree of the condition in the hand by age 85.
They suggest heat and cold therapy to reduce swelling and numbness, relieving pain with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), splints and braces and making use of modifications to facilitate the undertaking of day-to-day tasks like opening jars in the kitchen.
Finally this month, new evidence suggests that adults can produce new cartilage. While we might not be able to grow entirely new limbs, like a salamander, there is hope that the regeneration that takes place in certain joints could provide a key to a cure for osteoarthritis.
The Guardian reports that, “While the latest study has limitations – including that it only looks at a subset of cartilage proteins – it adds weight to the idea that injecting human joints with microRNAs (genetic code), shown by the team to be linked to cartilage protein production, might aid their repair.”