How many years of quality of life are you losing because of knee osteoarthritis? Can you get in and out of a chair?

Marc Darrow MD, JD. Thank you for reading my article. You can ask me your questions about  this article using the contact form below. 

How many years of quality of life are you losing because of knee osteoarthritis? Researchers and doctors ask – Can you get in and out of a chair? Can you get on and off a toilet?

For more than two decades we have seen, and still see, patients with sedentary lifestyles due to joint pain that caused subsequent inactivity and weight gain. They usually visit me with the idea that if we can solve their knee pain, they can lose weight and get back to their favorite activities. In many cases we can do that. However, it can be a much easier job if we can also help and convince the patient that weight loss during our treatments would be of great benefit as well.

We know, weight loss and activity are challenges for these people. We know of their frustration and pain. What I hope to show you in this article is that it does not take a lot of weight loss to provide a lot of pain relief. I am hoping to show you that it may not be as hard as you think.

A lot of science, a lot of numbers. a little weight loss, a little activity, a lot of pain relief and better health

There is a connection between obesity and knee pain. There is a connection between obesity, inactivity and knee replacement. Knee replacement, as I demonstrated in my article Knee replacement does not help you lose weight, is not the answer for many who want to resume an active lifestyle without knee pain.

But first, let’s look at what knee pain and obesity are robbing from you. YEARS of QUALITY OF LIFE.

In July 2019, research in the journal Arthritis care and research (1) gave some sobering numbers.

  • Half of the 14 million persons in the US with knee osteoarthritis are not physically active, despite evidence that physical activity is associated with improved health.
  • Among these sufferers more than half (7.5 million people) lost years of quality of life due to inactivity or insufficient physical activity relative to activity over their remaining lifetimes.
  • According to our model, if 20% of the inactive population were instead active, almost 100,000 cases of cancer, 220,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, and 215,000 cases of diabetes would be averted

The research concludes: “Physical inactivity leads to substantial Quality Adjusted Years of Life of  losses in the US knee osteoarthritis population. Increasing activity level in even a fraction of this population may have considerable collateral health benefits, potentially averting cases of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.”

So here researchers tell us that something common sense has been telling everyone all along:

  • If you can get patients with knee osteoarthritis a little more activity. they will have less pain, better quality of life and reduce their cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes risks.

The lead researcher of this study, Elena Losina, Ph.D. Has been providing information like this for years. She lead a 2011 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that examined people  between the ages of 50 and 84 and estimated how many years of  quality-adjusted life-years they lost due to obesity and knee osteoarthritis, and, what health benefits these people they could achieve if they lost weight.

  • If you were not obese and between the ages of 50 – 84, knee pain from osteoarthritis would rob almost two good years of quality of life from you (that is not quality of life measure) – For patients with both osteoarthritis knee pain and obesity 3.5 years of quality life lost.

What these two studies show us is that little has changed in almost a decade of research. If your knee is hurting, little has probably changed for you as well except the continued knee degeneative disease.

It does not take much weight loss to improve your quality of life

We are going to look at some studies which suggest the benefits of weight loss by percentage of body weight. While some research suggests the more the weight loss the better, other researchers suggests small amounts of weight loss can also have significant beneficial impact.

In November 2018 in the aforementioned journal Arthritis care and research, (3) a team of investigators  tested patients to help determine  the effect of weight loss on clinical and mechanistic outcomes in overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis. The people in the study were broken up into four groups

People who lost:

  • 5% of their body weight over 18 months (1 pound for every 20 pounds they weighed)
  • 5-10% of their body weight over 18 months (1 – 2  pounds for every 20 pounds they weighed),
  • 10-20% of their body weight over 18 months (2 – 4  pounds for every 20 pounds they weighed),
  • 20% of their body weight over 18 months (4  pounds for every 20 pounds they weighed. This would be the equivalent of 4o pounds of weight loss on a 200 pound body – this is very significant weight loss).

Results:

  • There were significant dose responses to weight loss for pain, function, 6-minute walk distances, physical and mental health-related quality of life,  knee joint compressive force, and interleukin-6 (INFLAMMATION).
  • Greater weight loss resulted in superior outcomes with greater quality of life improvements.

What is quality of life improvements? What is your reward for losing weight?

Doctors in Brazil published research (4) which divided elderly patients with osteoarthritis into two groups and tested their abilities to perform basic tasks.

Group 1: patients considered obese
Group 2: patients considered non-obese

  • The obese group showed a worst performance in the TUG test. A test where the amount of time a patient takes to get up from a chair, walk 10 feet and then walk back and sit in the chair.
  • The obese group also showed a worse performance in brisk walking speed and the 6 minute walk test.

The following activities were difficult to perform and caused a more severe pain in the obese group:

  • “housework chores”,
  • “going down stairs”,
  • “bending to floor”
  • “getting up from bed”
  • “rising from a chair”
  • “standing” and
  • “getting on/off toilet”

You probably did not need a research study to point out these challenges to you. What this research probably tells you is that there are people out there who have the same challenges you do.If you need more reasons why a little weight loss and a little physical activity can help you “get on and off a toilet,” and reward you with other health benefits please see my article: Weight loss can protect you from knee replacement if you are motivated.

Will stem cell therapy help me lose weight?

There is no audio in this video.

Most people who come into our office know they are overweight and know they need to lose weight.But they are also plagued by knee instability problems like those mentioned by the study patients above. Stem cell therapy addresses the knee weakness and knee instability immediately. A good diet plan can address the weight loss simultaneously to the stem cell treatments. In many patients we get that jump start of weight loss and reduced pain quickly, enough to help many create the “momentum and motivation,” they need to heal their problems.


 Ask Dr. Darrow about your knee pain and weight challenges


A leading provider of stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma and prolotherapy
11645 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD SUITE 120, LOS ANGELES, CA 90025

PHONE: (800) 300-9300

1 Losina E, Silva G, Smith KC, Collins JE, Hunter DJ, Shrestha S, Messier SP, Yelin EH, Suter LG, Paltiel AD, Katz JN. Quality-Adjusted Life-Years Lost Due to Physical Inactivity in the United States Osteoarthritis Population. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Jul 26. doi: 10.1002/acr.24035.

2 Losina E, Walensky RP, Reichmann WM. Impact of obesity and knee osteoarthritis on morbidity and mortality in older Americans. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Feb 15;154(4):217-26.

3 Messier SP, Resnik AE, Beavers DP, Mihalko SL, Miller GD, Nicklas BJ, DeVita P, Hunter DJ, Lyles MF, Eckstein F, Guermazi A. Intentional Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis: Is More Better?. Arthritis care & research. 2018 Nov;70(11):1569-75.

There is controversy in the medical community about umbilical cord blood stem cells. Some insist that the injectable solution contains abundant live umbilical cord blood stem cells. Some suggest that the stem cells are not alive. I have seen the flow cytometry showing live stem cells. The research shows that these stem cells release cytokines and growth factors that awaken native stem cells.  I have tried this treatment on myself for both shoulders and knees. After great success, I started using this treatment on patients. I still use PRP and bone marrow depending on the patient’s pathology and requirements. To date the results are excellent for all of these treatments. We are in the process of doing a study on cord blood stem cells (we have done others on bone marrow and PRP) to see which treatments are the most successful. We are awaiting more long term results.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections for knee osteoarthritis

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections for Chronic Low Back Pain

Marc Darrow MD, JD. Thank you for reading my article. You can ask me your questions using the contact form below. 

While we do offer stem cell therapy for knee osteoarthritis, the focus of this article will be on Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy. We receive many emails which ask which is the better treatment for me, stem cells or PRP? That answer comes best after a physical examination and when we have the opportunity to sit down together and discuss what are your goals of treatment. Goals of treatment would be different for a mountain climber than a stair climber at home.

In the same regard, we get many emails that ask us if PRP is better than hyaluronic acid injections or cortisone injection. Many of these people already had cortisone and hyaluronic acid injections. They are somewhat skeptical because these treatments did not help them as much as they thought they would.

In our experience, we have found PRP injections to be the superior treatment when compared with hyaluronic acid injections or cortisone injection. In fact we have submitted our findings for peer-review and upcoming medical journal publication. Supporting our view most recently is a 2019 study in the medical journal Orthopade (1) which found that Intra-articular PRP injections into the knee for symptomatic early stages of knee osteoarthritis are a valid treatment option. The clinical efficacy of Intra-articular PRP injections is comparable to that of the Intra-articular-hyaluronic acid injections and Intra-articular cortisone after 3 months, HOWEVER, the long-term effectiveness of PRP injections is superior to hyaluronic acid and cortisone.

What are PRP or Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections and how do they help issues of chronic knee pain?

  • PRP treatments involve collecting a small amount of your blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the red cells. The collected platelets are then injected into the knee to stimulate healing and regeneration.
  • PRP Injection Therapy is a natural (using your own blood platelets) and is a cost-effective alternative to surgery—designed to rebuild cartilage, repair torn meniscus and ligaments, and reduce swelling and pain. In the hands of an experienced clinician, it is not a treatment to delay joint replacement, it is a treatment that can help a patient avoid a surgery. It works by stimulating the natural immune repair mechanisms and supplying the growth factors necessary to build tissue.
  • PRP injection delivers a high concentration of endogenous (your own “home-grown”) platelets to the knee where osteoarthritis is present. Blood is composed of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It’s these platelets that are the injury’s “first-responders” and help revascularize an injured area, construct new tissue, and stop the bleeding.
  • Because platelets play a significant role in the healing of tissue, reintroducing a high concentration of platelets directly into the injured area may enhance the healing process.

In this article we will discuss research on grade 1 to 3 knee osteoarthritis and PRP treatments. When a new patient comes into our office for a consultation for their knee osteoarthritis, we do a careful assessment of the patient and then make recommendations. Sometimes, the lack of range of motion in this patient’s knee and other factors lead us to a recommendation of stem cell injections. This recommendation is based on a realistic expectation of what both treatments may offer. For some, having the PRP only may not offer the healing that they hope to achieve.

Why has the use of Platelet Rich Plasma therapy (PRP) for knee osteoarthritis seen a dramatic increase in the past few years? Research.

Doctors at the world’s leading medical universities and hospitals are showing that PRP can regenerate damaged knee cartilage and meniscus in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis and PRP can also enhance healing after knee ligament reconstruction.

An October 2018 study in the journal Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine (2) says this:

“Recent research into the applications of PRP for knee osteoarthritis has further indicated both the efficacy and safety of PRP treatment. Although research has shown a tendency toward better efficacy at earlier stages of osteoarthritis, evidence exists to indicate positive effects at all stages of osteoarthritis. In summary, since knee osteoarthritis is an extremely prevalent condition that can be a challenge to treat, it is imperative that safe and effective nonoperative treatment methods be available to individuals that are suffering from this condition.”

In July 2018, medical university researchers in Ireland lead a multi-national European research team to conclude in their research:

“Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a simple, low-cost and minimally invasive intervention which is feasible to deliver in primary care to treat degenerative lesions of articular cartilage of the knee. This therapy appears to have minimal associated adverse events and may have beneficial effects in terms of pain, health utility, patient satisfaction and goal-orientated outcomes.”(3)

What is interesting about this study is who the PRP helped:

  • The 12 participants in the study had an average age of 72.6 years and average Body Mass Index (SD) of 31.8 meaning that the average person in this study was obese and seven (58%) were male.
    • The most common goal of this group was was to be pain free,
    • followed by walking normally without aid
    • Reduction of knee stiffness
    • prevention of knee replacement
    • and being able to dance and garden again.

Even a single injection of PRP provided benefit.

In the video below (there is no sound), I demonstrate how why administer PRP. In this case the patient has problems of meniscus degeneration. We apply multiply injections to support regeneration of the whole knee. Below the video is research that showed positive results of even a single PRP injection against a single placebo injection.


In November 2017, researchers reported on the benefits of PRP compared to placebo injection in patients who had osteoarthritis in both knees. Published in the American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, the study showed PRP treatment significantly improves pain, stiffness, and disability in patients with knee osteoarthritis compared to normal saline (placebo) treatment.(4)

Also in November 2017, in the International journal of rheumatic diseases, researchers reported a summary of the most recent findings on the benefits of PRP for knee osteoarthritis.

  • This study performed an overview of the research to provide recommendations for PRP use in knee osteoarthritis patients through the best evidence. “They concluded that  PRP is an effective intervention in treating knee osteoarthritis without increased risk of adverse events.”(5)

In the medical journal Arthroscopy, a journal devoted to obviously arthroscopy, surgeons are told that Platelet Rich Plasma injections (PRP), offers better symptomatic relief to patients with early knee degenerative changes (than hyaluronic acid or placebo), and its use should be considered in patients with knee osteoarthritis.(6)

This is a verification of early research from the Mayo Clinic which came to the same conclusion – PRP showed better improvement than hyaluronic acid injection and placebo in reducing symptoms and improving function and quality of life. Especially in in younger, active patients with low-grade osteoarthritis.(7)

This is from the Mayo Clinic research:

“Intraarticular platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection has emerged as a promising treatment for knee osteoarthritis. Studies to date, including multiple randomized controlled trials, have shown that PRP is a safe and effective treatment option for knee osteoarthritis. Intraarticular PRP is similar in efficacy to hyaluronic acid, and seems to be more effective than hyaluronic acid in younger, active patients with low-grade osteoarthritis. Treatment benefits seem to wane after 6-9 mos. There are numerous PRP treatment variables that may be of importance, and the optimal PRP protocol remains unclear.”

At the end of that paragraph the Mayo team points out that benefits may only last 6 – 9 months and that there is much variation in the way PRP is delivered so it is difficult to understand why PRP may not work.


Is PRP a “one and done” treatment? For some yes, for many NO

When we see a new patient with degenerative knee disease who had “failed” PRP treatments at other clinics, we ask them how many treatments did they have? More often than not they say “one injection.” For some with minor osteoarthritis, as pointed out by the medical studies highlighted in this article, one injection provides benefit.

But one injection may not be sufficient for someone who has a more active lifestyle than others.

Research on two PRP injections

Here is a recent study where the patients received two PRP injections as the complete PRP treatment program. This treatment group was considered to be “active.” This research was published in the journal Sports Health.(8)

  • Fifty patients with knee osteoarthritis were followed for a minimum of 12 months.
  • All were treated with 2 intra-articular injections of autologous PRP.
  • Twenty-five patients had undergone a previous operative intervention for cartilage lesions, whereas 25 had not.
    • Note – 25 of the 50 patients had some type of surgical procedure on their knee before their first PRP treatment. Operated patients had undergone either cartilage shaving or microfracture.
  • All patients (even the ones with past knee arthroscopic procedure)  showed significant improvement in all testing and measurement scores for pain and function at 6 and 12 months and returned to previous activities.

Research on three PRP injections

A paper published in the Journal of physical therapy science.(9) It comes from doctors working in medical university hospitals in Turkey.

Highlights:

  • One of the major results of this study was the effectiveness of PRP treatment for pain and physical function in grade 3 knee osteoarthritis.
  • The effectiveness of a single injection was found to be significantly lower than that of two or three injections.
    • 3 PRP injections separated by 2-week intervals were found to be more effective for the improvement of pain and mobility than 2 injections in Grade 3 osteoarthritis patients
    • A significant effect was observed in the early period after a single injection of PRP, but the effect decreased in a short time. Based on the present results, we recommend 2 or 3 injections of PRP for patients with moderate knee osteoarthritis, and physicians’ decisions should be based on various factors such as the level of pain, level of activity, cost-effectiveness, and Body Mass Index
    • We further speculate that repeating the application after 6 months may further relieve symptoms for a longer period and delay osteoarthritis progression.

Research for athletes

Below is what doctors are saying to each other about athletes who want to stay active. It was published in the medical journal Cartilage: “As a result of the complexity of the arthritic knee, athletes, particularly those with a history of knee injury, have an earlier onset and higher prevalence of osteoarthritis.  This can present a clinical dilemma to the physician managing the patient who, despite the presence of radiologically confirmed disease, has few symptoms and wishes to maintain an active lifestyle.”(10)

The difficulty or “challenge” is in the prevention of advancing of knee osteoarthritis. Here the typical recommendations of anti-inflammatory medications, knee braces, and ice, those that the athlete can impose upon themselves, will lead to further knee deterioration. It is a challenge to convince an athlete of this when it may get them on the course, track of field this weekend.

In a recent study, researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery gave patients with early osteoarthritis an injection of PRP (6-mL), and then monitored them for one year. At baseline and then one year after the PRP injection, physicians evaluated the knee cartilage with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). While previous studies have shown that patients with osteoarthritis can lose roughly five percent of knee cartilage per year, the Hospital for Special Surgery  investigators found that a large majority of patients in their study had no further cartilage loss. At minimum PRP prevented further knee deterioration.


Ask Dr. Darrow about your knee pain and how PRP may help you


A leading provider of stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma and prolotherapy
11645 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD SUITE 120, LOS ANGELES, CA 90025

PHONE: (800) 300-9300

1 Huang Y, Liu X, Xu X, Liu J. Intra-articular injections of platelet-rich plasma, hyaluronic acid or corticosteroids for knee osteoarthritis. Der Orthopäde. 2019 Jan 8:1-8.
2
Cook CS, Smith PA. Clinical Update: Why PRP Should Be Your First Choice for Injection Therapy in Treating Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2018 Oct 22. doi: 10.1007/s12178-018-9524-x.
3 Glynn LG, Mustafa A, Casey M, et al. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy for knee arthritis: a feasibility study in primary care. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2018;4:93. Published 2018 Jul 4. doi:10.1186/s40814-018-0288-2
4 Wu YT, Hsu KC, Li TY, Chang CK, Chen LC. Effects of platelet-rich plasma on pain and muscle strength in patients with knee osteoarthritis. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation. 2017 Nov.
5 Xing D, Wang B, Zhang W, Yang Z, Hou Y, Chen Y, Lin J. Intra‐articular platelet‐rich plasma injections for knee osteoarthritis: An overview of systematic reviews and risk of bias considerations. International journal of rheumatic diseases. 2017 Dec 5.
6 Campbell KA, Saltzman BM, Mascarenhas R, Khair MM, Verma NN, Bach BR Jr, Cole BJ. A Systematic Review of Overlapping Meta-analyses. Arthroscopy. 2015 Nov;31(11):2213-21. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2015.03.041. Epub 2015 May 29.
7 Pourcho AM, Smith J, Wisniewski SJ, Sellon JL.Intraarticular platelet-rich plasma injection in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: review and recommendations. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Nov;93(11 Suppl 3):S108-21. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000115.
8 Gobbi A, Karnatzikos G, Mahajan V, Malchira S. Platelet-rich plasma treatment in symptomatic patients with knee osteoarthritis: preliminary results in a group of active patients. Sports Health. 2012;4(2):162-72.
9 Kavadar G, Demircioglu DT, Celik MY, Emre TY. Effectiveness of platelet-rich plasma in the treatment of moderate knee osteoarthritis: a randomized prospective study. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Dec;27(12):3863-7. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.3863. Epub 2015 Dec 28.
10 Kirkendall DT. Management of the Retired Athlete with Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Cartilage January 2012 vol. 3 no. 1 suppl 69S-76S
11 Wang-Saegusa A, Cugat R, Ares O, et al. Infiltration of plasma rich in growth factors for osteoarthritis of the knee short-term effects on function and quality of life. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2011 Mar;131(3):311-7. Epub 2010 Aug 17.
12 Injection of platelet-rich plasma in patients with primary and secondary knee osteoarthritis: a pilot study. Sampson S, Reed M, Silvers H, ey al. Injection of platelet-rich plasma in patients with primary and secondary knee osteoarthritis: a pilot study.Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Dec;89(12):961-9.1537-2290