Beating arthritis with braces

A patient being given braces at a workshop on osteoarthritis. — Photo: M. Karunakaran

A patient being given braces at a workshop on osteoarthritis. — Photo: M. Karunakaran  

CHENNAI, JULY 24. "Jump,'' said the doctor and senior citizen T.R. Hariharan, who could not afford a knee-replacement surgery, hopped off the two-feet high wooden stage. He had been fitted with plastic and metal braces a few minutes before his jump.

"I am an engineer and used to walk 10 km every day until 15 years ago. One day, I could not lift my leg to get into the train," said Mr. Hariharan. Antibiotics, he said, worsened his condition.

Several middle-aged men and women had many questions to Dr. Vijay Naik, who answered all their queries at a three-day workshop on osteoarthritis held in a marriage hall in Triplicane recently. Many were screened and braces were designed and fitted later.

Seventy-year-old Paramanand, who had been suffering from osteoarthritis for 20 years, said he had to hold on to a chair when he got up after offering prayers.

While, two young men helped him as he walked up to wear braces, half an hour later he climbed stairs to meet others waiting for their braces.

According to Dr. Naik, sometimes the cartilage between femur (the thigh bone) and tibia (the bone connecting the knee to the thigh) dries up and bones close up leading to loss of traction and severe pain and difficulty in movement.

Obesity and lack of exercise for leg muscles could cause osteoarthritis, which can affect youngsters too.

`Follow-up must'

Dr. Naik started developing braces after a group of poor people approached him for help four years ago.

So far, he has helped seven lakh people, including patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Follow-up is must and "within a year the braces can be removed. Results are seen even after four months," he said.

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