Joint effort

Know it Lack of awareness about arthritis often causes fear of surgery

Know it Lack of awareness about arthritis often causes fear of surgery   | Photo Credit: Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

If your knees crackle, you might have arthritis

Every big disease has a small start. Arthritis too is no different. Dr. O.N. Nagi, senior consultant of orthopaedics at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, says, “If your knees crackle while climbing stairs or while getting up from a chair, you should check yourself for arthritis.” Though it is the first sign of the disease but most patients ignore the first warnings, he rues. If caught at the first stage, arthritis can be arrested quite easily.

A senior joint replacement surgeon, Nagi, who was with the prestigious PGI, Chandigarh, for over two decades and has done hundreds of knee and hip replacement operations in India and abroad, states, “By the time patients come to us, they can barely walk straight.” Arthritis affects one’s walking because the knee is often the first to be attacked by it. “The next is hip, and then the shoulder and the arms.”

Three main categories

Arthritis can be divided into three major categories — osteoarthritis or degeneration of the bones, secondary osteoarthritis or the degeneration of bones because of accident, trauma or injury, and rheumatoid arthritis or the inflammation of the joints. Nagi says, “Indian women are prone to rheumatoid arthritis while our men get osteoarthritis more often.”

The strength of the knee, says this Oxford University medical graduate, has a lot to do with our genetic makeup. “Mostly, your genes decide how much load your knees can take, it differs from person to person.” Nagi gives an instance, “Not everyone can be a coolie, it needs long practice and also the right genes to lift a lot of weight.” With a change of lifestyle, particularly in the urban areas, more and more people are losing the habit of physical labour such as lifting a bucket of water, or even a heavy load of clothes. This affects our bones. “Our forefathers were much better off by doing a lot of physical labour in their day-to-day lives from an early age. In the name of comfort, we are doing a lot of harm to our bodies,” says Nagi.

Perhaps one damage many of us do to our body is getting into a strict exercise regime all of a sudden with the aim of losing weight as fast as possible. Nagi warns, “One should never fall for such gimmicks. Many patients come to me saying, ‘I was fine till I started doing yoga by watching the TV.’ Yoga or any exercise, if not done under the guidance of the right teacher, can cause you harm.”

Keeping one’s body weight under control is important to stop stressing the knees, but it can do double harm if one suddenly puts extra pressure on them in the name of exercise. “What you can do is perhaps start with basic exercises to build your knee strength and then get on with the difficult ones by and by,” he suggests.

With sophisticated equipment and techniques available now, knee and hip surgeries are quite successful in India. But lack of awareness, states Nagi, “leads to a fear factor in many patients. They often prefer to pop painkillers rather than going for an operation.” Though an expensive operation for common people, Nagi assures, “post operation, the patients will not just be able to walk properly but can even squat.”


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