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There are dozens of different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis is a medical term that means "inflammation of a joint" and can appear in any joint in the body. The knees, ankles, wrists and elbows are most commonly affected by arthritis, but you may also experience joint pain in the fingers, shoulders, back and hip.


Osteoarthritis is caused by a wearing down of the joints due to age. Rheumatoid arthritis affects mostly smaller joints in the body such as your feet and hands. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the joint linings, leading to swelling, erosion of bone and in some cases, deformity.


  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen joints, which often feel warm
  • Limited joint mobility and range of motion


If your doctor suspects you may have arthritis, he will perform an overall general examination and observation of the joint, as well as diagnostic tests that may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Joint fluid aspiration (through a needle)
  • X-rays, MRI or ultrasound imagery
  • Arthroscopy


  • Use of ice packs or heating pads for relief of pain and/or inflammation
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (NSAIDs - non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve or Advil)
  • Prescription medications for pain (such as Oxycontin, Percocet or Vicodin)
  • Physical therapy and exercise


Surgery for pain or loss of joint function caused by arthritis is only performed when other non-surgical treatments or measures fail to provide relief. Types of surgery for large or small joints include:

  • Joint replacement - most commonly involving a hip or knee replacement
  • Joint fusion - for smaller bones and vertebrae in the spine. Fusion literally cements two smaller bones together for greater structural stability, though it may decrease range of motion in the affected joint.

The approach to treatment and/or surgery is based on individual need, overall physical condition, diagnosis and prognosis.