Friday, September 28, 2012


Fear to do undergo surgery is common and well justified. Any normal person would not want to undergo knee replacement by choice and would look for ways and means to avoid surgery. While this is a sensible approach, I see many patients taking it too far. They will avoid surgery at all costs, no matter how much pain they have to suffer. Fear instilled by friends and family adds to the problem.

Many crooks are trying to make a quick buck at the expense of this fear. Newspapers, pamphlets, TV, Internet etc are flooded with advertisements of products promising a miraculous cure for arthritis. I see patients getting duped and cheated by these thugs on a regular basis. My readers call me often to enquire about the authenticity of these products!

Stem cells, oils, lasers, Cytotron, rope therapy, expensive knee injections etc are just some examples of alternative treatments being promoted. While some of these are in an experimental phase, others are plain ridiculous! None of these treatments have been proven to work.
Oils for massage, as a remedy for pain, have been around for centuries. Oils work! There is a strong scientific rationale for their use in arthritis pain. But they do not cure arthritis! At best they give some hours of relief from pain. They work better in early stages and their effect decreases as arthritis advances. I myself recommend patients to use oils. But when an oil is advertised as a cure and it is expensive to buy, then I have a problem with that oil! If you are buying a bottle of oil that is costing thousands of rupees, you are surely being cheated. Please don’t get carried away with tall claims made in advertisements. It is a big scam!
The next famous treatment is lasers! Lasers work beautifully in eye and kidney stone surgery, but have little effect on arthritis. Cartilage is a tissue that has poor capacity to regenerate and repair itself. Many people have tried a number of different ways to repair cartilage and most of them have failed. Lasers too have little effect if any on cartilage growth and repair. Besides in advanced stages of arthritis, the leg becomes deformed. Logically, till the deformity is corrected, arthritis pain can never completely go. Lasers do not correct deformity. Again an expensive treatment that doesn’t work!!
Cytotron is based on Rotational Field Quantum Magnetic Resonance – RFQMR – technology. The promoters claim that “The beams are precisely controlled and focused onto tissues ...which in turn stimulates cartilage growth in case of diseases such as Osteoarthritis or stops the tumor's growth in Cancer.” Again claims of a miraculous cure from a new, expensive and experimental treatment. There is a contradiction in their statement! How can the same therapy promote one cell type to grow (cartilage) and cause another cell type to die (cancer cells)? Whenever some therapy claims a cure and is expensive, we all should ask ourselves one question. Why has this therapy not been accepted by the international community at large? If it really worked then arthritis patients would have stopped getting knee replacements by now and cancer patients would have had nothing to fear!
Another treatment is rope therapy. Here an attempt is made to correct the deformed or crooked legs by literally pulling them straight with ropes. This has been attempted by orthopaedic surgeons in the past and is called ‘traction’ in medical terms. Traction fails to correct legs deformed by osteoarthritis. Small corrections are achieved sometimes but are lost quickly after therapy is discontinued. While on this therapy some patients experience pain relief but again this is temporary.
Stem cells have become the miracle cure for every illness nowadays! Stem cell therapy has a definite role in arthritis treatment. The procedure is known as ACI (autologous chondrocyte implantation). This procedure works very well in early stages in which the knee has a small area of cartilage loss. A small amount of cartilage is taken from the patient’s knee and it is grown in the laboratory by stem cell technology. The grown cartilage is then implanted in the defect. This therapy has shown promising results. But it only works in patients who have a defect and that too, a small one. It cannot work in advanced stages where the knee is excessively damaged and the legs have become deformed. Stem cells have limitations!              
Medicines are now available that can to be injected into the knee as treatment. Injections have a definite role and can give tremendous relief to the patient when used correctly and judiciously. But injections are unpredictable. Some patients are hugely benefitted while in others, there is no effect. Because of the unpredictable results, I would be hesitant in using very expensive injections. As a patient, one will feel the pinch if an expensive injection doesn’t work!

To conclude, arthritis of the knee is a difficult problem to solve. Fear of surgery has led patients to look for alternative cures. Many crooks have taken advantage of this situation and are selling quack treatments. These treatments do not work and are very expensive. Many patients are being cheated of their hard earned money. So I plead with my readers to be careful when looking for alternative treatments. Beware!