There are about 200 types of arthritis or conditions of the musculoskeletal system which are split into seven main groups.
Inflammation is a normal process of the body’s healing system. Inflammation generally tends to occur as defense against bacteria & viruses or as response to injuries like burns. However, inflammation occurs in arthritis patients for no apparent reason in cases of inflammatory arthritis. Typically characterized by damaging inflammation which does not occur as normal reaction to infection or injury, inflammation occurring during inflammatory arthritis is unhelpful & instead causes damage to affected joints which result in swelling, stiffness & pain. Word “arthritis” basically means joint inflammation, but this inflammation may also affect ligaments & tendons surrounding the joints. This condition is known as Enthesitis. Moreover, inflammatory arthritis can affect numerous joints & inflammation can damage surfaces of joints including the underlying bones. Best examples of inflammatory arthritis include the following.
- RA or Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Reactive Arthritis
- Arthritis associated with Psoriasis or Colitis
Uric acid is a chemical created by the body when it breaks down substances which are called purines. Purines are generally found within human cells & several foods. Most of this uric acid dissolves in blood & eventually travels to the kidneys from where they pass out as urine. However, some people are having elevated levels of uric acid simply because they either naturally produces more than what is required or the body is unable to clear uric acid quickly enough. Uric acid in such circumstances, are bound to buildup & accumulate in some people & form needle like crystals within joints. This will often result in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain or an attack of gout. Moreover, gout will usually either come & go in episodes or even become chronic in case uric acid levels are not reduced. Gout commonly affects a single joint or small number of joints within extremities like the hands & the big toe. This is normally due in part to the increased formation of uric acid crystals within cooler joints like those not so close to the main warmth of the body.
A fungus, bacterium or virus entering a joint can sometimes cause inflammation. Organisms which can pass infections to joints include the following.
- Hepatitis C – this is a blood-to-blood infection which is often shared through transfusions & needles
- Gonorrhea & Chlamydia – These are sexually transmitted diseases
- Shigella & Salmonella – Caused due to contamination or food poisoning
Joint infection in most of these cases can either be cleared with antibiotics or other antimicrobial medications. However, arthritis can at times become chronic & joint damage in cases may be irreversible if infection has persisted for some time.
- Connective Tissue Disease (CTD)
Connective tissues are basically tissues which support & bind together or separate organs & body tissues. These generally include cartilage, ligaments & tendons. Joint pain is normally a symptom of CTD, but inflammation which characterizes CTD is also found to occur in other tissues like kidneys, lungs, muscles & skin. This can often result in diverse range of symptoms besides painful joints which need consultation with a number of specialist doctors. Common examples of CTD include the following.
- Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis
- SLE or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Back pain for arthritis patients can arise from bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, discs & muscles. Some back pains are even caused by problems with organs located inside the body & can result in referred pain. This means that the problem is located elsewhere in the body but causes sensation of pain in the back region. Moreover, back pain can be having a specific cause, like in osteoarthritis, also called spondylosis when it occurs in spine. This condition is generally be detected on diagnostic imaging & through physical examination. Slipped disc is another common cause of back pain like osteoporosis. However, in most cases of back pain it is not possible for doctors to identify exact cause of back pain & is in such instances termed as ‘non-specific’ pain.
- Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain
Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain is usually felt within tissues other than bones & joints. This pain is often found to affect a part of the body after overuse or injury. Common example of this condition includes a tennis elbow which originates from soft tissues or muscles supporting joints. Sometimes this pain is more widespread & can also be associated with other symptoms. This is usually diagnosed as fibromyalgia.
- Degenerative or Mechanical Arthritis
Degenerative or mechanical arthritis generally refers to a group of conditions primarily involved with damage to cartilage covering the ends of bones. Main purpose of this smooth & slippery cartilage is to help bones of joints smoothly glide over one another during movement. This type of arthritis usually causes cartilage to become rougher & thinner. The body in response begins to remodel bone in an attempt to restore stability as compensation for loss of cartilage & changes in joint function. This can eventually cause development of undesirable bony growths (osteophytes) or cause joints to turn misshapen. This condition is generally known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is also found to result from previous damage to joints like fractures or even previous inflammation within the joint.