ra Calvin, 74, of Long Branch, has always been active. A classically trained ballerina, Calvin began taking dance lessons when she was just 5 years old, and danced professionally as an adult for many years. She eventually turned to ice skating, combining her classical dance training and athletic ability into a long and lucrative professional career on the ice. Calvin participated in several exhibitions, worked performing ballet on ice and eventually began sharing her love and knowledge of the sport by teaching beginner and recreational ice skating for many years.
While she never participated in dangerous jumps, Calvin admits to some terrible falls throughout her career – incidents she now blames for the debilitating osteoarthritis pain she experiences in her knees. “I never did the jumps,” she says, “but believe me I did some fancy things. I used to love to do spirals on the ice. Those were my favorites,” she says. “Unfortunately, I was young, didn’t think I could get hurt and that arrogance totally ruined my knees.”
“Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage in our joints,” explains board-certified rheumatologist Mutahir Ali Abidi, M.D. FACR, Medical Director at the Center for Arthritis and Rheumatological Conditions at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
Dr. Abidi specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. He is highly trained in progressive biologic treatment of inflammatory arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. He has a particular interest in joint-related and soft-tissue disorders including inflammatory joint diseases, lyme disease and connective tissue disorders such as lupus erythematosus.
While Dr. Abidi says that some degeneration of the protective cartilage occurs naturally with aging, it can be exacerbated by injuries or overuse. “Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a cushion between the bones of the joints. While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of osteoarthritis, in Mrs. Calvin’s case, repetitive injuries to the knee joints over the years may have further irritated and inflamed the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling, and eventually, the loss of that cartilage cushion between the bones of her knees.” Loss of that protective cartilage, according to Dr. Abidi, causes friction between the bones and often results in pain, swelling and reduced mobility.
“It all started with swelling in my knees,” explains Calvin, who stopped skating in 1992. “And then about three years ago the pain started.” Believing that arthritis was a natural part of aging, Mrs. Calvin was resigned to living with chronic knee pain. “I put up with it for quite a while,” she says. “I was walking around in quite a bit of pain and my knees were very swollen, particularly in the winter months,” she notes. Calvin says the pain and swelling got so bad at one point that she was literally walking around sideways like a crab and unable to bend her knees to get into the car – difficult for this once flexible ballerina to reconcile. “It was depressing,” she says, “but I figured this was how it would be and I was resigned to it.”
Calvin’s story is not unique; nearly half of all Americans with arthritis believe there is little that can be done to help. While it is true that arthritis can be extremely painful, arthritis is, in fact, a disease that can be managed successfully – with the proper care and expertise. Receiving an accurate diagnosis is the first step to reversing, eliminating or decreasing the painful symptoms of this disease.
“My son encouraged me to see my doctor,” explains Calvin, “and he referred me to Monmouth Medical Center’s Center for Arthritis and Rheumatological Conditions.” The Center specializes in meeting the needs of patients suffering from all forms of arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and joint-related and soft tissue disorders. A multidisciplinary team of specialists take a patient-centered approach to care offering expert diagnosis, the most advanced treatments, therapies, support services and access to resources to reduce the pain and challenges of living with arthritis and related disorders.
After a thorough examination by Dr. Abidi and a series of diagnostic tests performed onsite at the center, Calvin received a definitive diagnosis. She also received a comprehensive treatment plan combining exercise, therapy, medication and knee injections – to combat the disease that had already robbed her of so much.
“Arthritis debilitates you because it takes away your ability to be active,” says Calvin, “but it also robs you of your sense of self and can lead to feelings of depression. You look at yourself differently when you live in chronic pain. Dr. Abidi restored a sense of hope that I would be back on my feet and mobile again,” she adds. “I went home after my first treatment and I was able to do a plié! He resurrected me from immobility,” she adds.
Working with a team of multidisciplinary professionals who specialize in arthritis and rheumatologic conditions, Dr. Abidi and his colleagues at the center offer some of the most promising treatments and therapies, as well as office-based procedures like intraarticular injections for arthritis, bursa injections for bursitis, and tendon injections for treating tendonitis. The Center also offers an onsite infusion center offering patient the most current and highly effective intravenous medications for the treatment of arthritis and osteoporosis conditions.
In addition to building up the muscles that support her knee joints with exercise and applying a topical prescription cream to her knees for pain relief, Calvin undergoes injections into her knees every six months or so. “Mrs. Calvin undergoes a series of five hyaluronic acid injections,” explains Dr. Abidi. This substance, according to Dr. Abidi, which is derived from rooster combs, replaces some of the lost lubricating and shock absorbing properties of normal cartilage. “In carefully selected patients, the results can be extraordinary, with little or no side effects,” he says. “The injections, given once a week in a five week series help to temporarily restore the thickness of the joint fluid. This relatively new treatment option enhances the lubrication of the knee joint, allows for better impact capability and ultimately helps reduce pain for several months at a time. It can offer a dramatic improvement for many patients.”
In addition to helping osteoarthritis patients like Calvin, the center also treats all forms of soft-tissue injuries, including sports-related or overuse injuries to the joints, ligaments, and tendons, pinpointing the cause and offering treatments and therapies to facilitate healing and functional recovery.
“Dr. Abidi is just wonderful,” says Calvin, whose treatments have helped to significantly reduce her pain and increase her mobility. “He has a way about him that helps you feel hopeful again. He’s genuinely concerned with how you feel – as if he can almost feel your pain,” she adds. “The whole staff is wonderful and very attentive to how you’re responding to treatment. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Abidi and the staff at Monmouth Medical Center’s Arthritis Center,” says Calvin. “They are truly the lifesavers to all of us who suffer with arthritis and chronic pain. I would definitely encourage anyone with arthritis pain to call the Center.”
The Center for Arthritis and Rheumatological Conditions offers onsite state-of-the-art diagnostic technology, as well as a wide range of support groups, patient education programs and access to community resources to help patients and their families successfully manage arthritis, reduce pain, and live life to the fullest.
If you have arthritis or a related rheumatologic disorder, don’t let chronic pain, stiffness and joint swelling sideline your active lifestyle. Find out how the Center for Arthritis and Rheumatological Conditions can help you take control of arthritis and rheumatologic conditions. For more information, or to make an appointment, please call (732) 923-7550.
CONTACT: Kristine A. Brown
Director of Public Relations
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