Low-Dose Radiation Therapy for Osteoarthritis

    Although radiation therapy is primarily used to treat cancer, lower doses of radiation can also be used to treat patients with benign conditions such as osteoarthritis. Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia provides low-dose radiation therapy (LD-RT) to osteoarthritis patients in the Atlanta region, proven to reduce pain-causing inflammation.

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    What is Osteoarthritis? 

    Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when protective cartilage in the joints degenerates over time, resulting in pain and, eventually, bone rubbing against bone.

    About 1 in 7 Americans are affected by osteoarthritis, and it is expected that this number will continue to climb as the American population ages. Risk factors such as advanced age, being female, having a greater body mass index (BMI), family history of osteoarthritis, and previous joint damage can increase the likelihood of an osteoarthritis diagnosis.

    osteoarthritis radiation

    Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, although it most frequently affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Patients with osteoarthritis often experience symptoms including: 

    • Moderate to severe pain that can occur during or after movement
    • Stiffness that is most noticeable after being inactive or upon awakening
    • Swelling due to inflammation in the soft tissue around the joint
    • Tenderness in the joint when you apply light pressure near it or directly to it 
    • Decreased range of motion due to loss of flexibility
    • Grating sensation, accompanied by a popping or cracking sound, when the joint is used
    • Bone spurs, which feel like hard lumps, around the affected joint

    The symptoms of osteoarthritis often appear gradually and get worse over time. Although the condition cannot be reversed, symptoms can be managed with treatment.

    Standard Treatments for Osteoarthritis 

    The main goal of treating osteoarthritis is to ease the pain and stiffness caused by joint inflammation. Treatment usually starts with over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, and a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and weight loss. 

    When these treatments no longer effectively relieve pain, your doctor may recommend cortisone injections, prescription medications, and joint replacement surgery.

    Re-introducing Low-Dose Radiation Therapy for Osteoarthritis 

    Low-dose radiation therapy is not a new treatment for arthritis, but a method developed decades ago. While it is still commonly used in Germany and other countries, it hasn’t been regularly used in the United States since the 1980s, when more pharmaceutical options became available. However, because of its advantages, low-dose radiation therapy is making a comeback. It is an alternative that does not require drug therapy to get results.

    How Does Low-Dose Radiation Therapy Relieve Osteoarthritis Symptoms?  

    The primary benefit of radiation for osteoarthritis is reduced inflammation, which results in increased mobility and pain relief. Studies have shown other benefits of receiving low-dose radiation therapy to treat osteoarthritis, including: 

    • There are virtually no side effects during treatment. Because the radiation is very low dose, patients do not typically experience the same side effects as those from a cancer treatment radiation dose.
    • Painless treatment. Treatments are non-invasive and last only a few minutes each session.
    • Mechanism of action: The precise mechanism by which LD-RT relieves pain continues to be investigated, but recent studies have revealed that it probably modulates the inflammatory pathways. 
    • A safe alternative for older patients. LD-RT helps older patients with refractory osteoarthritis who have not experienced effective pain relief with other treatments. It can be administered to various areas of the body, such as the hands, fingers, knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, or spine.
    • Long-lasting effects. The treatments are given over the course of a week or two, with effects that can last up to two years. Radiation therapy for arthritis can be repeated periodically if pain recurs or worsens.
    • Cost-effective. Most insurance plans recognize and approve of this treatment, making it a good option for those seeking relief from osteoarthritis pain.

    Radiation therapy for osteoarthritis exposes patients to low doses of x-ray irradiation. This comes with a very low risk of developing secondary cancers such as thyroid, colon, soft tissue, or leukemia. Discuss any concerns with your physician. For many patients, the benefits of this treatment outweigh the long-term risks. 

    What to Expect From Low-Dose Radiation Therapy

    Low-dose radiation therapy for osteoarthritis is administered with a linear accelerator, the same device used to treat cancer with radiation. It delivers high-energy beams to the affected joints precisely and quickly while sparing the surrounding normal tissue.

    When you come to the center for treatment, the radiation therapist will position you on the treatment table. Radiation will then be delivered promptly, precisely, comfortably, and safely to the affected area. It can also treat several joints, such as in the hand or ankle.

    Patients undergoing low-dose radiation therapy for osteoarthritis will typically receive six treatments over two to three weeks, either every other day or twice a week. Several joints can receive attention in the same session. Each treatment session takes less than 10 minutes to complete.



    Arthritis Radiation Treatment in the Atlanta Area

    If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you may benefit from low-dose radiation therapy treatment. External beam radiation therapy will require a few trips, so choose a treatment center that is convenient for you. 

    Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia provides arthritis patients in the Atlanta area with low-dose radiation therapy for osteoarthritis. Our treatment centers offer the latest radiation therapy technologies in Blairsville, Conyers, Covington, Decatur, and Snellville, Georgia. Call to make an appointment with one of our physicians to speak about your specific condition, or have your primary care physician, rheumatologist, orthopedic doctor, and/or pain specialist refer you to one of our clinics to see if radiation is an option for you.

    Schedule an Appointment

    Making your first appointment is simple. Fill out our online form to request an appointment at a location near you.