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Is Arthritis Reversible?

Is Arthritis Reversible?

Your knees (or hips or ankles) used to make their complaints after a few hours of running around, but now it seems like the joint pain and inflammation greet you the moment you get out of bed.

If this sounds familiar, there are more than 53 million Americans who are in the same boat — struggling with joint pain and inflammation at the hands of arthritis. And this number only represents those with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The true number is likely higher.

One of the first things that patients here at The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre ask our team is whether arthritis is curable or reversible. Unfortunately, the answer to both is no, or at least not yet. But that doesn't mean that you don’t have options for arthritis.

The many faces of arthritis

We first want to narrow the scope of our discussion to those types of arthritis we see most often, such as degenerative forms like osteoarthritis (OA) or post-traumatic arthritis.

The reason for this is that there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, which is a catchall term for conditions that lead to joint pain and inflammation. Included in this are metabolic, infectious, and inflammatory forms of the disease. 

Far and away the most common form of arthritis is OA, which we commonly refer to as a wear-and-tear or degenerative issue, and it’s this type that we see most often at our practice.

Osteoarthritis is progressive

All of the articular joints (joints that move) in the human body rely on cartilage for smooth function. These tissues cover the ends of the bones within your joints, allowing them to glide together smoothly.  When you have OA, the cartilage inside your joints begins to break down, which not only leads to friction within your joint, but pieces of bone and cartilage can break free and create more problems.

While the human body does have amazing regenerative powers, cartilage isn’t a tissue that regenerates easily, if at all. So, once the tissues break down, there’s no turning back the clock.

As a result, issues like OA or post-traumatic arthritis (arthritis after an injury) are progressive, which means it's going in the opposite direction of being reversible.

Managing your arthritis

When we discuss treating arthritis, we do so in terms of management since there's no cure for the disease. But just because there's no magic bullet, it doesn't mean that you don’t have options.

In fact, there are many different ways in which we can slow the progression of your OA and even improve your symptoms. In many cases, we tackle arthritis from different angles, including:

If the damage within the joint fails to respond to these conservative efforts, you might be a good candidate for joint replacement surgery. Each year in the United States, nearly 800,000 knee replacements are performed, as well as more than half a million hip replacements, giving people the ability to move again without pain.

But we’re jumping ahead here. If there’s one takeaway that we want to leave you with, it's that the earlier we can get in and address your arthritis, the better. Since degenerative forms of arthritis like OA are progressive, early intervention can go a long way toward preserving function in your joints.

To figure out which approach is best for your arthritis, we invite you to contact our office in The Woodlands, Texas, today to schedule an appointment with one of our joint health experts.

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