Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are chronic and disabling affecting 40 million Americans. Nearly 50% of people > 65 years old have arthritis. Younger people have a lower risk of certain arthritic conditions (osteoarthritis) but still comprise nearly half of all people affected. Arthritis limits the activity of over 7 million people and is second to only heart diseases as a cause of work disability.



There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the most common being, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. The cause of most types is unknown. Three factors appear to play a role in who gets arthritis. Genetic factors, physical trauma to a joint throughout life, and how you live.



The most common symptoms are pain and decreased motion in a joint (most joints affected are hip, knee, hands and spine). This leads to decreased ability to walk and function through activities of daily living.


What Happens

In osteoarthritis the cartilage in the joints breaks down causing boney surfaces to rub against each other, causing pain and loss of movement.

In rheumatoid arthritis(RA) the lining of joints and internal organs become inflamed. It is a systemic disease that causes pain, stiffness, warmth, redness, and swelling. Inflammatory cells release enzymes that destroy cartilage and bone causing joint deformity and malfunction.


What Increases Risk

Age, obesity, joint injuries due to sports, work, or accidents, and genetics.

The cause of RA is not known. Specific genes may ­ risk. Latest research is also looking at a viral trigger that initiates the disease process.


When to Call a Doctor

In both conditions if you notice joint pain and/or swelling, and decreased function for greater than 3 days consult your physician.


What is Normal

All joints of the body should function through a full painfree ROM.


Common Concerns

"I have arthritis but it's a normal part of aging"… there isn't anything a physician can do! Wrong! Latest treatments for OA and RA are limiting symptoms, changing the course of disease, and improving function. The sooner people consult a physician and receive appropriate treatment the better their outcome.


Exam & Tests

RA - symptoms, medical hx, physical exam, x-rays, and lab blood test for rheumatoid factor.

OA - symptoms, medical hx., physical exam and x-ray


Treatment Overview

RA - focus on decreasing pain, decreasing inflammation, stopping or slowing joint damage, and improving patient function and well being.

OA - focus on decreasing pain and improving joint movement by physical therapy (exercise, heat, cold), medications corticosteroids/ NSAIDS), joint protection, surgery, and weight control. Two groups of medicines include:

  • Symptomatic - NSAIDS, Analgesics, and Glucocorticoids
  • Disease - Modifying Medication- methotrexate, leflunomide, D-Penicillamine, sulfasalazine, gold, minocycline, azathioprine, hydoxychloroqrine and cyclosporine



Both disease processes have no definitive prevention programs, however, these factors may affect onset, progression, and seventy of conditions.

OA - protect your joints, maintain ideal body weight, exercise regularly (aquatherapy), proper nutrition (eat a lot of fruit and vegetables).

RA - limited emotional stress, exercise, proper nutrition.


Home Treatment

For both conditions moist heat, ice, rest, exercise and medications may be implemented of various times during disease process.


Places for Help

  • Arthritis Foundation
  • American College of Rheumatology
  • National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
  • National Institutes of Health


Testing Overview

The diagnostic testing for OA and RA involves a complete physical examination, x-rays, and blood tests. (for RA)


Reference and Events

Information taken from,,, and