Arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition that affects millions of Americans. It is broadly defined as an inflammation of the joints. The Centers for Disease Control recently released figures showing that arthritis is the predominant cause of physical impairment, diminished quality of life and increased health care costs. There are many factors that contribute to arthritic conditions, such as genetic predisposition, gender, age and obesity. The term arthritis is a catch-all phrase to describe a disease which consists of several different types. Gout, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are all considered arthritic diseases and affect different parts of the musculoskeletal system.
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form, affecting the greatest segment of the population. It is caused by the loss of joint cartilage, which leads to a painful rubbing together of the bones. The pain is intensified by any increase in movement and the condition can spread to more than one joint. Age generally plays a role in the onset of osteoarthritis, as it is found to occur as a result of a lifetime’s worth of joint wear and tear. However, age is not the sole factor—repeated injuries through sports or prolonged repetitive tasks can also be contributors.