Arthritis… A word that conjures images of a horrid disease, like wildfire running rampant through our body and tearing up our joints. While some forms of arthritis can be terribly aggressive, erosive and destructive – most patients seeking treatment for arthritis simply have wear and tear, or degenerative arthritis. When wear and tear arthritis seeks certain areas of the body and runs in families the medical community refers to it as osteoarthritis. Arthritis simply means inflammation of a joint, and most of us will be affected by it sometime in course of our life.

There are roughly 200 types of arthritis, but they can be categorized as seven primary forms: 1) inflammatory like rheumatoid arthritis, 2) degenerative or mechanical arthritis including osteoarthritis and posttraumatic arthritis (e. g. deterioration of a joint following a sports, work or automobile accident), 3) soft tissue pain which includes muscles, tendons and ligaments, 4) connective tissue disorder as lupus or scleroderma, 5) infectious arthritis caused by a bacteria or virus attacking joints and 6) metabolic arthritis from buildup of toxins like uric acid which leads to gout. Back pain is the seventh and final category — yet technically the same forms of arthritis which attack other areas of the body can also attack the back or other parts of the spine. One category of arthritis which deserves special mention, as it’s subtypes have a proclivity to primarily attack the ligaments of the spine, are the spondyloarthropathies (e. g. ankylosing spondylitis and Reiter’s disease). Spondyloarthropathies are highly inflammatory and often very disabling if left unchecked.

The risk for most forms of arthritis increases with age. Gout and ankylosing spondylitis affect more men, while other forms of arthritis tend to be more common in females. Genetic factors play a role in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and osteoarthritis. The good news is that many of the risk factors for arthritis can be mitigated through lifestyle including: obesity, mechanical joint damage and exposure to offending agents (e. g. ticks, smoke, proinflammatory diets and purines in certain foods leading to uric acid build-up).

Some forms of arthritis can be easily treated with lifestyle changes as anti-inflammatory nutrition routines, splinting or bracing and therapeutic exercise. If your arthritis does not respond to routine conservative care, seek medical attention. Some forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and septic arthritis often require early aggressive pharmacological treatment (and occasionally surgery) to effect the best outcome. Your doctor should perform a thorough history and physical examination as well as order any special laboratory and imaging studies which may be indicated.

To learn more about arthritis treatment options, including regenerative medicine (stem cells), anti-inflammatory nutrition, anti-inflammatory supplements, bracing and therapeutic exercise contact your friendly healthcare providers at STAR. Also refer to the following links for further information:

Dr. Joseph Fortin, DO Dr. Joseph Fortin is the Medical Director at Spine Technology and Rehabilitation and a Clinical Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

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