When is “arthritis” not really arthritis?

Arthritis is one of the most overused diagnoses in pain medicine. Sometimes it seems that every patient that has ever had pain has been told that they have “arthritis”. In some cases this diagnosis is accurate. In others, this misdiagnosis stands in the way of the patient getting help by treating the actual cause of the pain. There are many conditions that are called “arthritis”.

Arthritis technically means inflammation of a joint. In practice, however, some clinicians use the term arthritis to explain any symptoms that affects a joint.

Often a patient will seek care for joint pain and x-rays will be taken. If nothing significant is found, it is not unusual for the patient to be told something like, “You have a little arthritis. That’s why you hurt. Take these anti-inflammatory drugs.”

IMPORTANT: There are many patients that DO have inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid or other form of inflammatory joint disease. However, many patients have been told they have “arthritis” when the pain is actually related to tendonitis, muscle injury, ligament injury, poor joint function or mechanics, compensation posture, mineral deficiency, or other condition.

When we see a patient that has been told that they have arthritis, one of our first considerations is to determine whether their pain is definitely related to the diagnosis of arthritis or whether their symptoms may be related to another condition that may respond nicely to treatment.

Most patients that consult our office for joint pain begin to see very positive results quickly.  The most frequent comment from patients after they begin care is, “I wish I had come here sooner!

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