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Arthritis: A Fiend with Many Faces
Although it may be a common bedfellow of old age, arthritis need not render sufferers bedridden. Learn more about the condition and how to treat it with Groupon’s study of arthritis.
Arthritis can manifest itself in more than 100 ways, but all involve the inflammation, infection, or degeneration of the body’s joints. When joints are healthy, tissue and fluid cushion and lubricate these hinges much as grease lubricates the ball bearings in a robot's joints. Cartilage covers the ends of bones, acting as a shock absorber, and synovial fluid fills the entire joint capsule, keeping the system supple and well-oiled. Meanwhile, flexible ligaments run from joint to joint to enable muscles to bend and extend.
Arthritis can creep in when any one of these elements begins to break down. Osteoarthritis, for instance, results from the hardening and diminishing of cartilage—a slow-developing condition most often found in the hips, hands, spine, and knees. Infectious arthritis occurs when bacteria, fungi, or viruses contaminate the synovial fluid and tissue, resulting in swollen joints, pain, and often an accompanying fever. Perhaps the most commonly known of them all, rheumatoid arthritis, is also the most mysterious. An autoimmune disorder, it occurs when the body's antibodies begin to fight healthy joint tissue. Its cause is unknown, though recent studies suggest that it may be associated with certain types of bacteria found in the stomach.
Roughly one in five adults in the United States suffers from some form of arthritis, and there are many treatment options that can help mitigate its impact. Targeted physical therapy can help maintain the range of motion in afflicted joints, and strengthening the muscles surrounding arthritic areas can help relieve joints of their burden. Ice, deep-penetrating heat, diet, and massage also assuage pain and can have preventive effects. Most of all, arthritis sufferers should continue being as physically active as they can and seek out low-impact exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, or moon aerobics. Physical activity can stave off the slow creep of the condition, and general wellness—and weight loss in particular—has been shown to make arthritis more manageable.