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Understanding Arthritis



Arthritis has a severe impact on people since ancient times although mostly went unidentified. Evidence of arthritis has been found throughout history from mummies of Egypt, native American tribes to tribes in Australia and Italy. Arthritis was referred to as one of the most prevalent ailment of earlier times. Little was known except symptoms and signs. Medieval Greeks, Hippocrates included, and medieval Europeans attributed Joint maladies to congested humors. By time the humor hypothesis gave way to more empirical and scientific theories.

Before 1600 the disease was rare but then it spread across the Atlantic during the exploration and it was only in the late 1700 that arthritis subtypes were identified and distinguished. Beginning with the english physician William Heberden who described that the bony outgrowths at the distal inter phalangeal joints were part of a disease process distinct from gout, a more common ailment of the same family.

Arthritis is not a single disease but is commonly referred to a group of, as much as 200, joint inflammation related ailments. What is generally understood as joint pain can, in fact, be Arthritis. Basically both affects joints and results in more or less the same problems. So for a better understanding of these two let’s see how a joint forms. A joint is the meeting point of two bones connected by the tough tissues in our body called ligaments. The surfaces of the bones where they meet are covered by cartilage which allows them to glide smoothly on one another as they move. The cartilage is fed by a thin lining on the inside of the joint called synovial linings.

Synovial linings also lubricate the joint and also remove fluid and debris from the joint. Then there are Muscles which give joints its shape, support and ability to move. All of these are complimentary and plays a great role in helping us move. Now common joint pain often occurs due to everyday hazards such as banging a joint or suffering from an injury affecting the joints. The joint can become stiff, inflamed, and painful. Joint pain can also occur due to sitting or standing positions that are held over a long period of time, and it tends to disappear on its own accord with a couple of weeks. However, arthritic pain occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the joint. This leads to the joint becoming painful and inflamed, and it usually worsens with activity. Usually with arthritis the more you do the more painful your joint will get.

Here are some quick points to distinguish arthritis from joint pains:

  1. Joint pain lasts for a short span of time whereas arthritis stays for a long period of time and it would only get better after proper treatment.
  2. Joint pain is caused due to external hazards whereas arthritis happens when our body’s immune system starts attacking itself. It could also be caused due to hereditary reasons.
  3. Joint pain decreases by treating the symptoms – often a massage or ointment do the magic. Exercises like yoga helps get rid of joint pain but arthritis pain increases after an activity.
  4. Unlike joint pain arthritis often results in deformity ultimately becoming an obstacle in doing daily routines.