New Technology for Easing Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

Cathee McKeown Health Guide
  • I am a big fan of public radio and now I am an even bigger fan. I recently visited National Public Radio’s website, npr.org, and came across some exciting news. A company named Small Bone Innovations has just come out with a new outpatient procedure to treat arthritics that have lost cartilage in their hands. For those of us who suffer from this, you know the severe pain you experience when the cartilage that separates the bones wears out. I have been living with “bone on bone” pain for many years now and I have made many changes in my day to day life to acompensate for my hands. When your hands are affected, basically it affects everything you do. People take the use of their hands for granted when they get dressed, brush their teeth, do the dishes, etc, but when your hands are crippled with arthritis, everyday tasks become painful chores.
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    This new technology can literally change the lives of those with RA and Osteoarthritis. During a one-hour outpatient procedure a T-shaped “spacer” is implanted in between two bones that are rubbing together. The spacer is made of “Artelon,” a degradable polyurethane material that is anchored to the affected bones with screws. The Artelon is like a graft material which means the body can attach to it. In time, the body will eat it up and it will then be replaced by the body’s own tissue. It will act like cartilage but it is not cartilage itself.

    Early studies have shown that the Artelon implants leave patients with little pain and greater grip strength. This is a great alternative to other surgical procedures that basically “fuse” the bones together to prevent movement and rubbing against one another, which, at 36 years old, is not an option I am willing to consider. There are other non-surgical treatments available such as Hyalgan injections. This treatment is made from a derivative of hyaluronic acid, a natural acid produced in the body. These injections basically act as a joint “lubricant” to decrease friction inside the joint and allow the joint to function more normally and hopefully hurt less. Reviews have found that the effects of the Hyalgan injections are longer lasting than steroid injections. I can speak from personal experience that the steroid injections only last a very short time. The more injections that you have the less the effect seems to last.

    As with any treatment, you need to discuss your best options with your doctor and educate yourself on the latest developments for treating arthritis. Based on these early reports, I am confidant that we are moving in the right direction to ease some of the pain that is caused by this disease. For more information visit www.npr.org

    Learn more about arthritis treatments here.



Published On: October 31, 2006