Bone and Joint Health FAQs

Adapted from a Public and Patient Education Department Program presentation


Tara M. Carey, PT, DPT 
Rehabilitation Department
Hospital for Special Surgery

What causes joint inflammation?

The cause of inflammation is not completely known. Specialists are looking at a combination of factors such as, genetics, injuries that may occur, and oneís lifestyle. It isnít yet known which one of these factors weighs in most heavily when deciding whether or not a person will develop joint inflammation, but it is known that a combination of the above three risk factors is involved.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints causing pain and stiffness. It is also one of the most prevalent diseases affecting bones and joints, and the leading cause of disability in those over 15 years old. Those with arthritis may have symptoms prevalent at all times or intermittently. Usually these symptoms get worse in wet or cold weather conditions. The symptoms can also develop after a traumatic event.

Currently, there is no cure for arthritis but there are methods to ease the symptoms associated with the disease. Women are more prone to arthritis than men, and it is equally prevalent across races.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

The most common method of diagnosing arthritis is by taking an x-ray of the joint and taking a good patient history. Physicians also use MRI, lab testing, and bone scans to rule other causes of symptoms in or out.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

There are many symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. However, the most common ones include: pain with weight bearing exercises, pain that increases during the day and decreases with rest, swelling, tenderness, and a grating or catching in the joints.

What is stair training?

People with arthritis often have difficulty going up and down stairs. Stair training is a technique where a therapist will watch a patient go up and down stairs to assess where his or her trouble points are. Then, the therapist will figure out a plan of what needs to be done in order to make the person stronger and better able to negotiate stairs.

Is a bunion a form of arthritis?

No, a bunion is not a form of arthritis. It is a type of excess bone growth that is usually located on a personís foot. Often, it is the bodyís response to an increase of force in a specific area, causing excess bone growth.

What is tendonitis?

Despite what many people believe, tendonitis is not a form of arthritis. A word containing the suffix ď-itis" is referring to an inflammation of a specific body part. Therefore, tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon. Being that tendons attach to bones and are located near joints, tendonitis can often mimic arthritis.

What is gout?

Gout is an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints caused by an abnormal metabolism of purines. It is accompanied by sudden attacks of extreme pain and tenderness coupled with chills or a low-grade fever. Heat, redness, and swelling are also typically prevalent in the area with gout.

Why is it that only 65% of people who had a hip fracture are able to efficiently walk across a room?

Everybodyís body heals differently and at different rates. Therefore, not everybody is going to be capable of properly or fully healing from such a debilitating trauma as having fractured a hip. Furthermore, the people who usually suffer from fractured hips are typically older, more fragile, and likely to have had difficulties moving around pre-fracture, making recovery rates lower.

How does one decide whether or not to have a joint replacement surgery?

The decision to go through with joint replacement surgery is a very personal one. Some people may not have excessive (or any) pain, while others with the same condition may experience debilitating pain. In the case of arthritis, one needs to keep in mind that once cartilage is lost, it cannot be re-grown.

Another factor to take into consideration is whether or not oneís condition is preventing a person from taking part in something that he or she greatly enjoys and wants to keep on doing. Thus, itís a personal decision where the benefits of such a surgery need to be weighed with the downtime and side effects that come along with it.


Transcribed by Robyn Wiesel, Public and Patient Education Program Coordinator

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