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Understanding Arthritis

Table of Contents

  1. An Overview of Arthritis
  2. Types of Arthritis
    1. Inflammatory arthritis
    2. Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain
    3. Back pain
    4. Degenerative or mechanical arthritis
    5. Metabolic arthritis
    6. Connective tissue disease (CTD)
    7. Infectious arthritis
  3. Causes of Arthritis
  4. Risk Factors for Arthritis
  5. Treatment of Arthritis
    1. Medication
    2. Physical Therapy
    3. Non-pharmacological therapies/Natural remedies
    4. Food to avoid
    5. Diet
    6. Natural therapies
    7. Physical activity
    8. Self-management
  6. FAQs:
    1. What are the early signs of arthritis?
    2. What types of food make arthritis worse?
    3. What is the most painful type of arthritis?


An Overview of Arthritis

Arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints. The term arthritis is used to describe pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. A joint area is an area of our bodies where two different bones collide. The major function of our joints is to move our body connected by bones. Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, who affects over 21 million Americans and rheumatoid arthritis who affects 2.1 million Americans. More than half of those who are diagnosed with arthritis are below 65 years old and 60 percent of Americans who have arthritis are women. Almost 300,000 babies and children have arthritis.

Around two-thirds of the US adult population have arthritis. Usually affecting Americans between ages 18 to 64 years old.

Aside from acquired arthritis, 49 percent of adults with any heart disease have arthritis, 47 percent of adults with diabetes have arthritis, and 31 percent of adults who are obese have arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

There are about 200 types of arthritis. These types are categorized into seven main groups:

Inflammatory Arthritis

Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain

Back pain

Degenerative or mechanical arthritis

Metabolic arthritis

Connective tissue disease

Infectious arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis

In inflammatory arthritis, inflammation happens for no apparent reason. Usually, when a body is going through a healing process, inflammation occurs as a defense mechanism against viruses and bacteria. Inflammation also can be a body’s way of responding to injuries such as burns.

When a person has inflammatory arthritis, they experience damaging inflammation that doesn’t occur as a normal reaction to an infection or injury. This type of inflammation damages the affected joints which will result in pain, stiffness, and swelling. Although the term “arthritis” means “inflammation of the joints”, inflammation may still affect the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint.

Examples of inflammatory arthritis include:

Reactive arthritis

Ankylosing spondylitis

Rheumatoid arthritis


Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain

For patients who have soft tissue musculoskeletal pain, the tissues surrounding the joint are also affected aside from the joints and bones. The pain usually affects a part of a patient’s body who has experienced an injury or overuse, such as tennis elbow, which originates from the muscles or soft tissues supporting the joints.

Back pain

Back pains usually start from the muscles, nerves, discs, bones, ligaments, or joints. Often times, back pains can be caused by spondylosis. Spondylosis occurs in the spine. One way to detect spondylosis is through imaging tests or a physical exam. A “slipped” disc is another cause of back pain, also osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones.

See also: How To Combat Lower Back Pain


Degenerative or mechanical arthritis

Degenerative or mechanical arthritis is referred to as a category of conditions that involves damage to the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. The fundamental job of the smooth, slippery cartilage is to help keep the joints move smoothly and glide along. Mechanical arthritis causes the cartilage to become thinner and rougher.

When a person’s body begins to remodel the bone in an attempt to restore stability to compensate for the loss of cartilage and changes in joint function, this can cause undesirable bony growth called osteophytes. When joints misshapen, this is when it’s called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can also be a result of previous damage to the joint such as a fracture or previous inflammation in the joint.

Metabolic arthritis

Purines are present human cells and several types of food. When the body breaks down purines, uric acid may form. Uric acid usually dissolves in blood and travels towards the kidneys. From there, it passes out in urine. If a person has high levels of uric, it becomes acidic when they naturally produce more than the body needs or the body cannot clear out the uric acid quickly enough.

Uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joint which results in sudden spikes of extreme joint paint or a gout attack. Gout can either come in episodes or become chronic if the level of uric acid is not reduced. It commonly affects the big toe and hands.

Connective tissue disease (CTD)

Connective tissues were made to support, bind together, or separate other body tissues and organs. They include tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. CTD is often associated with joint pain and inflammation. The inflammation can also occur in other tissues which include the skin, muscles, lungs, and kidneys. Lupus, systemic sclerosis, and dermatomyositis are examples of connective tissue diseases.

Infectious arthritis

When our joints are infected with a bacterium, virus, or fungus, it can sometimes cause inflammation.

Examples of organisms that can cause infection in the joints:

Hepatitis C. A blood-to-blood infection that can be spread through shared needles

Salmonella and Shigella. Transmission is through food poisoning or food contamination.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Transmission is through sexual contact.

Other common types of arthritis will be discussed separately because each type needs to be discussed thoroughly. Here are the common types of arthritis include:

Rheumatoid arthritis


Childhood arthritis

Septic arthritis


Psoriatic arthritis


Sjogren’s syndrome


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Causes of Arthritis

With over 200 types of arthritis or musculoskeletal conditions, there’s not one single cause of it. The causes of arthritis vary according to the type of arthritis which includes:

Abnormal metabolism which can lead to gout and pseudogout

Infections such as arthritis that you get from Lyme disease

An injury which leads to degenerative arthritis

An immune system dysfunction such as RA and SLE

Inheritance such as osteoarthritis

Risk Factors for Arthritis

Age:The risk of arthritis develops as people get older

Sex: Women are more at risk of arthritis than men. In fact, 60 percent of people who have arthritis are women. However, gout is more common in men.

Genetic factors: Arthritis such as RA, SLE, and ankylosing spondylitis usually occur on people who have specific genes that can cause it.

Obesity and overweight: People who have excess in weight are more at risk in developing the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.

Joint injuries: People who have damages in their joint are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

Occupation: If a job requires constant and repetitive knee bending and squatting, the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis is higher.

Occupation: If a job requires constant and repetitive knee bending and squatting, the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis is higher.

Infection: There are many microbial agents that can help develop various forms of arthritis which can trigger the development of some types of arthritis.

Treatment of Arthritis

The main goal for the treatment of arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain the quality of life the patient has. There is a wide array of treatments, medications, and natural remedies that can help protect joints to prevent further damage.

Treatments include:

Medications Physical or occupational therapy

Non-pharmacologic therapies

Patient education and support

Splints or joint assistive aids


Weight loss


The doctor will prescribe specific medications depending on the type of arthritis a person has. Commonly used drugs include:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve)

Analgesics – acetaminophen (Tylenol), tramadol (Ultram), oxycodone (Percocet) and hydrocodone (Lortab)

Corticosteroids – prednisone and cortisone

Counterirritants – any brand of creams or ointments that contain menthol or capsaicin

Biologics – etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade)

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) – methotrexate (Trexall) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)


Physical Therapy

Some doctors often suggest physical therapy to help patients with arthritis reduce limitations on mobility and overcome some challenges that they face. Forms of physical therapy include:

Physical therapy. This has to be performed first by licensed therapists. They can help assist you the first time you do it. They can create customized exercises for your condition. Sometimes, physical therapy is combined with pain relieving treatments such as ice or hot packs and massage.

Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists give out practical advice on how patients can manage everyday tasks. They can choose specialized aids and equipment which can help protect the joints from further damage and managing fatigue.

Warm water therapy. These are exercises performed in a warm-water pool. The water can support the weight of the patient and puts less pressure on the muscles and joints.

Non-pharmacological therapies/Natural remedies

There are a lot of natural remedies that can help patients manage arthritis. A healthful, well-balanced diet with appropriate exercise, refrain from smoking, and not drinking too much alcohol can help manage arthritis.

Food to avoid

People with arthritis may want to avoid nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, goji berries, eggplant, and peppers. These types of vegetables contain solanine, a chemical that has been linked with pain in arthritis.


There is no specific diet that can treat arthritis. However, there are types of food that can help reduce inflammation. The following food listed down below is usually found in a Meditteranean diet. It includes:

Nuts and seeds



Fruits and vegetables

Whole grains

OIive oil

Natural therapies

Various forms of herbs and spices have been recommended by doctors for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These include turmeric, garlic, ginger, and green tea. More research is needed for these herbs and spices to be really proven a fact rather than a myth.

On the other hand, according to the organization of Arthritis Research based in the U.K., some research has supported that by using the devil’s claw, rosehip, and Boswellia can help manage pain caused by arthritis.

If a patient is considering natural remedies for any form of arthritis, consult a doctor first.

Physical activity

Before doing any physical activity, a patient must inform their doctor. The physical activities that a patient with arthritis performs should be appropriate for them. Joint-friendly activities include walking, swimming, and cycling.

Physical activities can help inpiduals with arthritis reduce symptoms long-term. Although, they should be aware that they will feel extreme, short-term pain when first beginning the exercises.


Self-management is extremely important for people who have arthritis. Key strategies include:

Staying physically active

Getting regular check-ups with a physician

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight

Avoid unnecessary stress in order to protect the affected joints

Aside from the key strategies mentioned above, a patient must follow these six habits that can help lessen and manage their condition:

Be organized

Stay active

Balance activity with rest

Eat a well-balanced meal

Improve sleeping patterns

Be cautious with the affected joints

Remember: Avoid sitting in the same position for a long period of time. Take regular breaks to keep mobile.


What are the early signs of arthritis?

Early signs of arthritis include joint swelling, joint redness, joint stiffness, loss of joint range of motion, limping, joint deformity, loss of joint function, and fatigue.
What happens when a patient has arthritis?

A patient may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation of the affected joint. They may also become anemic which means your red blood cell count decreases. They may also have a slight fever. Severe arthritis can cause joint deformity if left untreated.

What types of food make arthritis worse?

A patient should avoid these types of food in order to manage their arthritis.

Fried and processed foods

Sugars and refined carbs

Dairy products

Alcohol and tobacco

What is the most painful type of arthritis?

Gout is the most painful type of arthritis. High levels of uric acid in a person’s body is the main cause of the disease. These uric acid crystals cause inflammatory arthritis in the joints which can lead to intermittent swelling, redness, heat, pain, and stiffness.

You don’t need to keep wondering if you have arthritis or not. The best way to know is to see a joint pain doctor who was trained to diagnose and help you manage your symptoms of arthritis. Dr. Ronak Patel is one of the best arthritis doctors in Plainsboro, NJ, Princeton, NJ and its surrounding areas. If you wish to schedule an appointment with him, click here. You can also reach him at (609) 269-4451.

Don’t let arthritis hinder you from doing the things that you love. See Dr. Ronak Patel today!

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