What is arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis or chronic joint symptoms. Arthritis is usually chronic, which means that it rarely changes, or it progresses slowly. Specific causes for most forms of arthritis are not yet known.

The most common types of arthritis include:

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, primarily affects weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip and spine. It occurs in most people as they age, but may also occur in young people as a result of injury or overuse. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage covering the ends of bones gradually wears away. The joint inflammation causes pain and swelling and continued use of the joint produces pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting, inflammatory disease that primarily affects the hands and feet, although all joints may be involved. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joint lining swells, invading surrounding tissues and producing chemical substances that attack and destroy the joint surface. Swelling, pain and stiffness are usually present even when the joint is not used. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of all ages. However, more than 70 percent of people with this disease are over 30 years of age.

Fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Continuing or recurring pain or tenderness in a joint
  • Difficulty using or moving a joint in a normal manner
  • Warmth and redness in a joint

What treatment options are available?


Many over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen may be used to effectively control pain and inflammation in arthritis. Prescription medications are available if over-the-counter medications are not effective. The physician chooses a medication by taking into account the type of arthritis, its severity and the patient’s general physical health. Patients with ulcers, asthma, kidney or liver disease may not be able to safely take anti-inflammatory medications. Injections of liquid cortisone directly into the joint may temporarily help to relieve pain and swelling.


Depending on the type and severity of the arthritis, a rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, and is focused on relieving pain and increasing motion in the affected joint(s). The goal of arthritis rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible while improving the overall quality of life — physically, emotionally and socially. In order to help reach these goals, arthritis rehabilitation programs may include: exercises to control joint pain and swelling and to improve mobility, heat and cold therapy, massage and nutritional counseling to improve weight control and the use of assistive devices such as canes, walkers or splints.


In general, an orthopaedist will perform surgery for arthritis when other methods of non-surgical treatment have failed to give relief. In people with severe cases of arthritis, orthopaedic surgery can often provide dramatic relief and restore lost joint function. A total joint replacement, for example, can usually enable a person with severe arthritis in the hip or knee to walk without pain or stiffness.
Baptist Health’s Joint Replacement Team is dedicated exclusively to the surgical care and rehabilitation of patients requiring joint replacement surgery. Before surgery, patients are informed about what to expect. After surgery, patients recover under the watchful eye of physicians, nurses and physical and occupational therapy staff that will help manage pain and begin the process of helping regain mobility and strength in the affected joint.