What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term meaning "inflammation of the joint." One of the most common types, osteoarthritis (OA), is a common cause of joint pain. Sometimes called degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, it is a condition that involves the breakdown of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that covers the ends of moving bones in joints. It acts as both a shock absorber and a lubricant, protecting your bones from damage and providing smooth, pain-free movement. As joint cartilage wears away, the bones begin to make painful bone-on-bone contact.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Arthritis is diagnosed through the evaluation of symptoms and a physical examination often performed by an orthopedic surgeon. X-rays can show the extent of damage to the joint.

  • The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the knees, hips, fingers, and shoulders.
  • Osteoarthritis symptoms include, but are not limited to:
  • Joint pain while standing or moving
  • Giving out or locking of joint
  • Near constant pain
  • Decreased activity
  • Abnormal stance or walk

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. However, researchers continue to make progress in finding the underlying causes for arthritis. An orthopedic specialist can guide you to treatment options with a goal of restoring motion and reducing pain.

As arthritis progresses, activities like walking, driving and standing can become painful. Early stage osteoarthritis can be treated with a variety of conservative, non-surgical treatments.

These include moderate doctor-prescribed exercise and physical therapy, both excellent ways to keep your joints moving and to help relieve moderate joint pain. Joints that are not regularly exercised can become tight and painful. Excess body weight places extreme pressure on the joints. If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend weight loss to help relieve unwanted stress and pain in your joints.

As the joint cartilage continues to wear away and the symptoms of osteoarthritis become more severe, surgery may be recommended to correct the damaged bone and cartilage. Joint replacement is a surgical option for many patients.


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