Arthritis has been used to describe chronic irritation, inflammation and degeneration of a joint. However, arthritis is broken up into two groups: inflammatory and degenerative. Inflammatory arthritis produces excessive swelling of the joint and can lead to pain and erosive changes in the joint if left unchecked.
Degenerative arthritis, as the name implies, is a wearing down of the cartilage used to protect the joint. While this does not produce any significant swelling, pain will occur through the friction that occurs when the cartilage has worn away and liberation to the joint is lost.
The degenerative changes will cause stiffness in the joint, which is worsened with waking up in the morning due to lack of movement to the area overnight.
The goal of treating degenerative arthritis is therefore to increase flexibility, joint mobility, and improve surrounding musculature function to the area without further irritation. The goal of treating inflammatory arthritis is, first and foremost, to temporarily reduce inflammation to the area, followed by a plan for helping to prevent the inflammation from re-occurring. As arthritis patients will have pain in the surrounding tissue, a therapeutic plan should be addressed to lend relief and support of the affected area. Conservative treatment can have profound effects on decreasing symptoms and improving function.