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What is Arthritis and Do You Have It?
Find Out If You Do and What Kind, So You Can Address It
You start to question
when you feel pain in a joint. Now you wonder, is it in the joint cartilage, and what is cartilage
anyway, and does that mean you have inflammation of the cartilage, and isn't that what arthritis is, and you didn't
think you had a high arthritis risk but now you're not so sure.
OK. Let's define arthritis first. Simply put, the word arthritis comes from the Greek
word 'arthrum' which means joint. Add 'itis' at the end and you've got 'arthritis'. In other words, 'arthritis'
means 'inflammation of a joint' - the two are interchangeable.
Now that we have a working arthritis definition, let's focus on what kind, because that
gives you some ideas about how to deal with it.
There are two main types of arthritis - infectious arthritis, also called rheumatoid
arthritis, and non-infectious. Let's look at each one.
Infectious Arthritis: This refers inflammation of a joint
caused by any one or more infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or spirochetes. Some of the more
common ones are: gonococcal, pneumococcal, tubercular, staph, strep (which is the infectious agent in rheumatic
fever) and in more recent years, Lymes, a spirochete.
This type brings up another question, "Is arthritis infectious?" The answer is no, not
technically, because arthritis only means inflammation of the joint. However, the infectious
agent may be transmittable, as it is in the case of gonorrhea, strep, staph or
Knowing that your joint cartilage is being gobbled up or worn away by some such bug, you
are armed with the knowledge you need to choose a strategy that invites those bugs to live elsewhere, and when they
do, you can move to the second phase of your strategy, which involves repairing the damage.
Non-Infectious Arthritis: This refers to all the other
causes of joint inflammation. For example 'traumatic arthritis' is the result of sudden or repeated stress on the
joint, as in tennis elbow, while 'post-traumatic arthritis' is the result of an injury such as a bump or blow.
'Septic arthritis' is joint inflammation that results from toxicity of some kind - perhaps a food intolerance
(wheat, potatoes, strawberries, heavy metals or pesticides, for example).
Last, there are three types of joint tissue that can become inflamed from
any of the above. One type is the bone itself, and this is called 'osteoarthritis'. The second is the joint
cartilage itself. To answer what cartilage is, think of the gristle in a piece of meat - that's cartilage. It's a
type of very dense, firm and compact connective tissue that's capable of withstanding considerable pressure or
tension. Third, the synovial membrane over the joint, and the fluid it contains which lubricates the joint can also
No matter which type of joint tissue becomes inflamed, the condition is still referred to
as 'arthritis' because some part of the joint is inflamed.
The bottom line is that the word 'arthritis'
refers to a symptom and not a
cause. To address the symptom means finding and
effectively addressing the cause.
Pamela Levin is a Registered Nurse and a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst
with 500+ hours' post graduate training in clinical nutrition, herbology and applied kinesiology. She has been in
private practice 41 years.
Pamela Levin, R.N.
December 1, 2011
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