Overview | Main Types of Arthritis | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment

Arthritis is a painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. Although arthritis is common, it is not well understood as there are over 100 different types, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as juvenile arthritis in children. Arthritis can affect people of all ages and is the leading cause of disability in America. According to the American Arthritis Foundation, 1 in 5 adults and over 300,000 children are currently affected by arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis – also known as degenerative arthritis, this is the most common type of arthritis. It is caused by the wear and tear to the cartilage surrounding the joints. When the cartilage is damaged, the bones in the joint begin grinding against each other, causing pain and restricting movement. Normal wear and tear occurs as we grow older, however a joint injury or infection can accelerate the degeneration of the cartilage.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – this is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly start attacking healthy tissue, causing pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of joint function. Although the exact cause of RA hasn’t been detected yet, it is believed to be the result of various factors including genetics and environmental elements.
  • Juvenile Arthritis (JA) – this is a term used to describe the many autoimmune or inflammatory conditions that can develop in children under the age of 16. There are various types of JA, the most common being Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).


The symptoms of arthritis depend upon the type of arthritis a person has.
Osteoarthritis symptoms may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Progressive stiffness
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Progressively decreased range of motion

Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling and inflammation of the joints
  • Stiffness of the extremities occurring on both sides of the body

Juvenile Arthritis symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling of the joints
  • Redness and warmth

Note: Although the various types of JA can have common symptoms, each has its own set of symptoms and special concerns, not all related to joint pain.


The most important step in treating any type of arthritis is getting an accurate diagnosis, which begins with the collection of a patient’s medical history and family history. Doctors will also check a patient’s joints for swelling, discoloration and warmth, as well as range of motion. Lab tests may be helpful in pinpointing the type of arthritis a person has. Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds may also be ordered as they can show more detailed images of bone and/or soft tissue such as the cartilage, tendons and ligaments that surround the joints.


There is no cure for arthritis, unfortunately, but with treatment patients may be able to relieve the symptoms and improve joint function. Because every person is different, the treatment plans will be customized for each individual based on the type of arthritis they have. Most treatment plans include a combination of medication, physical activity, possible injections, and topical ointments or in extreme cases, surgery.

Many patients have begun turning to alternative medicine as a treatment option due to the promising results that others have experienced. This is where SCU Health System can help. Our experts in the field of Eastern Medicine and acupuncture, Ayurveda, chiropractic care and massage have helped numerous patients gain relief from various types of arthritis pain. Arthritis treatments at SCU include:

  • Acupuncture – fine needles inserted at specific points on the skin have been shown to reduce arthritis pain.
  • Ayurveda – studies have shown that individualized treatments using Ayurvedic medicine including herbs, special oil therapies, massage combined with dietary and lifestyle changes have helped reduce arthritis pain by eliminating toxins and bringing balance to the body.
  • Chiropractic Care – by correcting spine and joint dislocations, the range of motion in the body and the affected joints is increased and pressure on the nerves is alleviated, therefore relieving pain caused from misaligned joints.
  • Massage – studies have shown that the effects of massage for arthritis symptoms have led to reduced pain and stiffness as well as increased range of motion and overall joint function.

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