Arthritis Definition, Causes and Treatment

Although there are over 100 different types of arthritis, the definition common to them all is fairly simple: Arthritis is a classification of conditions that affect the joints in the human body, causing them to deteriorate. Symptoms range from swelling, stiffness and loss of function to physical deformity and—universally—pain.


There are many different forms of arthritis, with a range of symptoms that varies slightly depending on type and severity. The causes, too, are many: Some are brought on by infection, some by aging and wear and tear, some by injury and some by heredity. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common kinds of arthritis, and each definition below will outline their causes.

  • Osteoarthritis – This form of arthritis is by far the most common. The disease is characterized by deterioration of cartilage in the joints, a factor that can ultimately cause bones to grind against one another. Stiffness, inflammation and pain can result. This form of arthritis is most commonly the result of aging, wear and tear, obesity or physical injury.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – This arthritis category is an autoimmune condition, which means that the immune system has turned against the body by attacking the synovial membranes (or synovium). The synovium is a layer of tissue on joints that secretes lubricating synovial fluid. As one might expect, this type of arthritis attacks the synovial joints, which are located throughout the body, including in the spine, hands, feet, shoulders, elbows and knees. No known cause exists.


There is no cure for arthritis of any kind, so treatment is always relegated to the management of symptoms. With most forms of arthritis, early detection enables more effective treatment. In general, non-invasive treatments include pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. In more advanced cases of arthritis, joint-replacement surgery may be the only option, as anti-inflammatory medications cannot reverse the damage done to the joints. Some cases of osteoarthritis that affect the spinal joints can create osteophytes—also known as bone spurs—that may compress spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord itself. In cases like these, your physician may recommend surgery to address the problem.

That is where Laser Spine Institute can make a difference. Our talented team of spine surgeons and neurosurgeons specializes in the use of minimally invasive procedures to access and treat the specific area causing back pain—all on an outpatient basis. For more information, contact Laser Spine Institute today.