Causes of Joint Pain: Rheumatoid Arthritis - SkyGen

Causes of Joint Pain: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis may not be particularly common when compared to osteoarthritis, however it can be far more debilitating and difficult to manage. Prevention of rheumatoid arthritis is also much more challenging as the exact causes of the condition are still not completely understood.

Osteoarthritis is for the most part stress and damage induced. Rheumatoid arthritis however is an autoimmune condition that attacks a completely irrational enemy, the body itself. It starts in the synovial membrane.

Synovium is a sort of lubricant that your body produces in order to keep flexible joints working smoothly. Such joints are known, not surprisingly, as synovial joints. There is a “capsule” of this lubricant surrounding joints like your knees, fingers, and elbows, and a small amount within a cavity between the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovial cells to swell, extra synovial fluid to be produced, and a sort of stringy tissue called pannus to develop in the joint. Then it responds to its own handiwork by inflaming the whole synovial sack and causing some brutish pain.

That’s not the end of things. As the condition progresses it can lead to deterioration of the cartilage, eventually causing bone on bone grinding (not pretty), and even fusion of the two bones on either end of the joint. This can seriously effect the patients range of motion, and of course all of that abuse can lead to some serious deformity if left untreated.

But wait, there’s more; this condition doesn’t just confine itself to the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can eventually lead to secondary inflammation of the lungs and eyes, and the membranes around the heart and lungs leading to the two very dangerous conditions of pericardium and pleura respectively.

Traditionally, doctors in Australia and most other places employ a combination of exercise, anti-inflammatory medications, disease modifying anti-rheumatic medications, and in severe cases surgery. Early recognition of the condition and comprehensive management can help slow the disease’s progression and limit the ultimate suffering and disability of people afflicted with it. But no real cure can be achieved with this regimen, and the condition invariably remains a foe for life. There is also some evidence to suggest that certain dietary and lifestyle changes can make a difference, particularly when combined with other treatments, but still no cure and no prevention is available.

 But science doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) like to stand still, and work being done with mesenchymal stem cells is beginning to open new doors and opportunities in the treatment of this painful and debilitating disease.

Laboratory and clinical evidence is beginning to prove that mesenchymal stem cells, particularly allogenic stem cells, can produce dramatic improvements in the condition. In the past, these cells have typically been extracted from umbilical cords, usually from healthy babies who were born without complication. Other regenerative medicine techniques of stem cell extraction involve ultrasonic cavitation technology, separating the needed material from the patients own fatty tissue. This has some subjective and moral advantages, but some research has shown that it also has a number of objective practical advantages.

One major difference is availability and cost. There is no need for the clinic administering treatment to buy cells from secondary sources, they can use the patients own cells. This works out to a pretty significant price reduction for treatment.

Another is the growing body of evidence showing that adult adipose stem cells are considerably safer than those extracted from bone marrow or umbilical cords. But that is some heavy science, so I will devote an entire piece to the research investigating the safety and type of behaviour inherent in the different forms of stem cells, and another on exactly how they tackle the problem of rheumatoid arthritis.


*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.

Written by William Harrison

William Harrison is a professional medical writer and investigatory health journalist. Left partially paralysed in a fall that broke his back, he received two serious spinal operations and learned to walk again in Thailand, the land he now calls home. A food loving, tea guzzling, experience junkie, he has written extensively on health, medicine, fitness and Thai tourism. The partial product of his experiences and passions, he now avidly follows the development of stem cell therapies internationally as SkyGen's resident health journalist.