arthritis and joint pain in hands and knuckles

Want to See the Science Behind Arthritis and Joint Pain?

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a disease that affects your joints and is the most common cause of disability among kids and adults in the USA. Arthritis describes a broad category of inflictions that involve joint inflammation and pain. Arthritis can occur through natural wear and tear or from various genetic diseases that worsen the state of joints over time. Read on to learn more about arthritis, its causes, effects, and several treatment options available.  

What are the parts of a joint? 

A joint is the part of the body where two or more bones meet to allow movement. Most major joints contain muscle structures, cartilage, and synovial fluid – a viscous substance our bodies use to lubricate our joints for frictionless movement. Each joint is different, moving in ways that naturally, slowly deteriorate joint health over time. Joint pain is actually common among all ages, and is usually caused by damage or loss of these essential parts in the affected joint. 

What are the different types of arthritis? 

There are six primary forms of arthritis, each with various causes and effects within the body. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common form- affecting over 10% of people over the age of sixty. Osteoarthritis is also called “wear and tear” arthritis as it occurs naturally over time and is not brought on by any pre-existing health conditions. Osteoarthritis is most common in the hands, hips, and knees. 

Ankylosing spondylitis is a somewhat uncommon form of joint disease that can lead to the fusing of the vertebra in the lower back. While some vertebrae in the lumbar spine naturally fuse as we age, people with ankylosing spondylitis can experience more aggressive fusing, leading to stiffness and dull pain in the lower back and buttocks.

Juvenile Arthritis is an umbrella term for any joint inflammation affliction that occurs in childhood and young adulthood. It's experienced through a form of rheumatoid arthritis called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) which causes chronic pain in children under 16 and can often last for months or even years. 

Gout is an inflammatory joint disease that’s caused by the build-up of a harmful substance called uric acid in the blood. Gout can be caused by obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, or diet problems. Gout can cause severe, chronic pain, and often requires major lifestyle changes and treatment to recede. 

Psoriatic arthritis is a form of joint inflammation that affects some people with the skin condition, psoriasis. Specific causes are unknown but thought to be a combination of heredity and environment/ lifestyle choices. Psoriatic arthritis can flare up by various triggers like cigarette smoke, infection, severe stress, or consumption of certain recreational and prescription medications. 

Finally, Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory joint disease in which the immune system attacks the soft tissues and cartilage of the joints. This form of arthritis can be the most severe and debilitating and sadly has no known cure. 

What causes arthritis? And what makes you more likely to develop arthritis? 

Most forms of arthritis have non-specific causes, meaning there's no one condition or change to point to in the development of the disease. Osteoarthritis is generally considered to happen naturally from overuse or gradual decline of joints over time. Gout can be attributed to an abundance of uric acid in the blood that crystallizes in joints and causes damage through friction against soft joint tissues. This being said, arthritis can often be triggered by conditions that place excess stress on the body such as repeated intense movements, sports, manual labor, infection and autoimmune diseases, or even just unhealthy physical and mental states like obesity or trauma. Certain forms of arthritis can also favor specific demographic groups such as age, sex, and weight. If you have a family history of arthritis, you may be more likely to contract the disease in your lifetime. 

What are the symptoms of arthritis? 

People with joint inflammation suffer different symptoms depending on the type of arthritis and the severity of the disease. Pain can range from mild to severe, affect one area or many, and be acute or chronic – meaning it can be brief and go away or be relatively constant. Some of the most common symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, redness, stiffness, tenderness & warmth in the affected joint(s). 

Diagnosis & Treatment 

Thankfully, most forms of arthritis can be diagnosed before they become too severe or debilitating. Visit your healthcare provider if you suspect you have arthritis, and they can conduct a series of tests including physical examinations, imaging exams, or blood tests. Most forms of arthritis cannot be ‘cured’ in the conventional sense, though they can be treated to blunt the pain, increase mobility, and reduce joint inflammation. There are certain forms of arthritis that can go into a state of remission – or essentially disappear naturally or with the help of treatment. Treatment plans vary based on the type and stage of arthritis as well as the severity of pain. Many treatments include medication, physical therapy, and rest, and in more severe cases, surgery and longer recovery times. 

Prevention and living with arthritis

You can lower your chances of getting arthritis with the following healthy and preventative practices. First, maintaining a healthy diet and body weight can help reduce the burden our joints have to support on a daily basis. Obesity can exacerbate the strain on the most vulnerable joints and cause damage over time. Another good practice is to avoid smoking, as the harmful chemicals introduced through tobacco smoke can trigger several damaging reactions in the body. Finally, practice good form when exercising and favor low-impact activities to keep unnecessary stress off your joints. The major health risk associated with arthritis is inactivity, when joints experience chronic pain it can feel impossible to get physically active and this sedentary state can lead to diabetes and heart disease. For this reason, exercise is a crucial daily practice for preventing harmful arthritis effects. 

Wrap up

Arthritis can make everyday comings and goings of life feel difficult, painful, or even hopeless. The good news is that there is hope as millions of people who live with and manage their arthritis successfully every day. It’s important to recognize when you might be affected by arthritis, seek out advice from a medical professional and make the necessary lifestyle changes or treatment choices for your muscle and/or  joint health.




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