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Discover Arthritis Symptoms and Treatments

By Dr. Kevin J. Murphy

Sports Medicine Recovery Journal

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What Is Arthritis?

The term “arthritis” simply means inflammation of the joints. In most cases, this inflammation occurs after the cartilage in the joint has been damaged. Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue that protects the joints by absorbing the shock and pressure imposed by movement. A decrease in the amount of cartilage protecting a joint sometimes results in arthritic inflammation. However, infection and autoimmune diseases can also cause arthritis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 54.4 million adults in America have been diagnosed with arthritis. More than 23.7 million of those diagnosed have been forced to curtail physical activity as a result.

Arthritis typically develops over time, which is why it is most common among people over the age of 65. However, children, teens, and young adults can also develop arthritis. Women and people who are overweight are more likely to suffer from arthritis, but injuries, infections, immune system dysfunction, abnormal metabolism, diet, genetic makeup, high blood pressure, and smoking can all be factors as well.

There are more than 200 types of arthritis. Each has a different cause and treatment. Sometimes, individuals have arthritis in multiple joints, or have different types of arthritis spread among several joints.

The most common types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis results from the gradual breaking down of cartilage. Eventually, the cartilage in a joint can wear away completely, causing the bones to come into direct contact with each other. This may cause pain and restrict movement. It may also cause inflammation of the joint lining, changes to the bones, and deterioration of the connective tissue that holds the joint together and connects the bones to the muscles.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease. An individual’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body, including the synovium—a soft tissue that produces fluid to nourish cartilage and lubricate joints. As a result, this condition can destroy the bone and cartilage in a joint, causing pain and restricting movement. In some cases, joints may become twisted or deformed.
  • Gout. When there is too much uric acid in the blood, crystals form and settle around the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis. A type of inflammatory arthritis, this condition affects people who suffer from psoriasis, a skin disorder. Symptoms may occur sporadically or flare up only in the morning.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. This is the most common type of arthritis in children and teens. It causes pain and swelling in the joints and may affect other body parts as well. It is sometimes inaccurately described as “growing pains.”
  • Reactive Arthritis. When joint pain and swelling are caused by an infection in another part of the body, arthritis is categorized as reactive. The infection usually occurs before the onset of symptoms and may be identified only by laboratory testing.
  • Septic Arthritis. This painful arthritic inflammation is linked to an infection within the affected joint itself. It usually occurs when germs travel through the bloodstream to the joint or an injury delivers germs directly to the joint.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis. Technically a form of arthritis, this inflammatory autoimmune condition affects the spinal joints. It usually causes chronic back pain and stiffness.
  • Thumb Arthritis. This occurs when the cartilage on the end of the bone at the base of the thumb joint wears away, usually as a result of aging.

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

The primary symptoms of arthritis are stiffness, swelling, redness, pain, and decreased range of motion in a joint. The symptoms usually get worse as an individual ages. Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may also experience other symptoms related to the inflammation of the immune system, such as tiredness, loss of appetite, a slight fever, or anemia.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

When joint stiffness or pain continues over a period of time, it is important to consult with a physician. Typically, a primary care physician can assess the symptoms and determine if they necessitate a consultation with a specialist. If your symptoms are severe, a visit to a rheumatologist may lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.

When joint stiffness or pain continues over a period of time, it is important to consult with a physician. Typically, a primary care physician can assess the symptoms and determine if they necessitate a consultation with a specialist. If your symptoms are severe, a visit to a rheumatologist may lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.

How Is Arthritis Treated?

Treatment plans depend on the type of arthritis diagnosed, the extent of the joint damage, the level of pain, the patient’s overall health, and the impact on mobility and quality of life.

Treatment options may include medication, non-pharmacologic therapies (icing/heat), physical and/or occupational therapy, the use of assistive or stabilizing devices (walkers/canes), patient education and support, low-impact aerobic exercise, weight loss, nutritional counseling, and/or surgery for joint repair or replacement.

While there is no cure for arthritis, in most cases, the pain, stiffness, and reduction of joint mobility can be treated and effectively managed.


“Arthritis,” Healthline,

“Arthritis,” Mayo Clinic website,,are%20osteoarthritis%20and%20rheumatoid%20arthritis.

“What are the causes and types of arthritis?,” Medical News Today,