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Arthritis: What Is It?

What is Arthritis

Are you over 40? Have you been experiencing joint pain? You could have arthritis, but don’t worry – we are here to help.

It’s hard not to jump to the feverish conclusion of arthritis if you’re experiencing knee, back, shoulder or hip pain. We know that no one wants to hear the phrase “it could be arthritis”, as it can symbolise the end of youth. The end of freedom and of activity. The beginning of the end.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re here to debunk the theories, and reassure you that the stigma surrounding arthritis is nothing to be afraid of. Some of life’s aspects may change a little when dealing with arthritis as a condition, but there is no reason for daily life to stop.

As a term, ‘arthritis’ has embedded itself in our everyday world. It’s almost a given that everyone will experience some sort of pain that can be compared to arthritis. Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself,  you are more than likely know someone who has.

The first step towards a happier and healthier future is to give us a call. By doing so, we can provide all the information that you’re looking for; gearing you up for treatment that will change your life for the better. Don’t feel disheartened by joint pain, we can help you find the bespoke solution that works for you. 

But, you haven’t come to this blog to book a Physical Therapy session (although you can do that here), you’ve come to find answers. You’ll have loads of questions around arthritis and what it means for you. Let’s get you the answers you need. 

Arthritis: We’ve Heard It All Before

Joint Pain

Here are a few stories we commonly encounter at PRO Therapy. This is how most people define arthritis, and how it impacts their lives:

  • “It takes me 20 minutes every morning to get my back loosened up before I can roll out of bed and walk, because of arthritis.”
  • “I’ve had to stop taking walks with my spouse because as soon as I get more than 4 blocks, the arthritis in my knee acts up and makes it painful with every step.”
  • “Every time I get onto the floor to pick something up, I’m scared that I won’t get back up – because my hip arthritis makes me so tight and weak.”
  • “I can no longer make it a full 18 holes on the golf course because my shoulder will get so stiff and painful by hole number 10 due to arthritis.”

Whether you relate to anything like this now, or are afraid you may do in the future, we want to reassure you that this is a common condition that affects millions of us. It does not make you a freak of nature! 

You may have heard horror stories about how arthritis causes permanent damage and irreversible pain. You might even have heard arthritis being defined with scientific terminology that sounds scary. Yet, in a nutshell, arthritis is basically joint stiffness and pain caused by ageing. And you can do something about it. 

We want to change the stigma around arthritis. You might think that your only solution is surgery and/or injections to manage the damage caused. Well, the good news is that these definitions of arthritis go straight for the worst case scenario.

Arthritis does not always indicate pain, stiffness, or a permanent change to your joints. It’s doesn’t always signify a rapid decline in lifestyle, either. 

All of the examples above blame arthritis for their painful or uncomfortable symptoms. This is not the case. In fact, we would argue that arthritis usually only has a minimal impact on your mobility. 

The examples of pain and stiffness given above are attributed to arthritis when, actually, we would highlight another factor as the main cause. 

What Does The Term “Arthritis” Actually Mean?

Joint arthritis

In summary, arthritis is a term that describes changes that have occurred in our joints. 

These changes can include the narrowing of spaces between joints, swelling (occurring in the joint), and incorporate changes that have happened in the bone or cartilage. 

The most common ways to identify whether you have been affected by arthritis or not is via an X-ray or an MRI scan. It’s always important to remember that arthritis does not always indicate the reasoning behind pain or function loss. 

The changing of bone/joint shape isn’t always the culprit behind your pain. Like wrinkles on our skin, we will all experience elements of arthritis with age. Again, like wrinkles, this doesn’t indicate damage or injury. It’s purely the fun of getting old! 

Arthritis may not be the cause of your pain, but if it is, we can help to manage and treat any discomfort that you may be feeling. 

Are You Experiencing Symptoms Of Arthritis? 

The symptoms of arthritis are easily recognizable, but can be misinterpreted. 

Often the pain associated with joints is assumed to be arthritis, when in fact an individual could have arthritis in their joints without any experience of pain. 

Are you experiencing any of the following? 

  • Pain in or around your joints
  • Swelling in the joints or connective tissues
  • Stiffness in certain joints or areas
  • Reduced mobility
  • Difficulty moving specific joints

These are all symptoms commonly associated with potential arthritis, but is not something to panic about. Pain can come and go or it may be persistent in a joint, we want to work with you to find the cause.

The best thing to do if you suspect these symptoms may be related to arthritis, is to contact us so we can see you as soon as possible to give you the advice that you require. 

Most people will experience arthritic discomfort at some point in their lives, however, this is completely controllable. 

To manage these symptoms we offer a personalized physical therapy plan. We will work with you to produce something that is manageable and keeps your high quality of life. 

Unlike other therapists, we wont send you away with a printed list of boring exercises. We will work directly with you to find a positive way to manage your pain. 

What Does The Research Say? 

What does the research say?

Increasing amounts of evidence shows that the changes to joints (that we attribute the term “arthritis” to) are very normal, and do not predispose us to prolonged pain. 

Don’t just take our word for it, look at the evidence. Many researchers have agreed that arthritis is often not the root cause of joint pain. 

This research shows that despite not having any complaints of joint pain, people having MRIs in their 30s-40s have shown joint arthritic joint progression. 

Despite no complaints of knee, hip, shoulder or back pain, these individuals had been affected in a similar way to those claiming that arthritis is the cause of their pain. 

In these cases, arthritis has developed, but no pain is occurring. This highlights a lack of a correlation directly between all cases of joint pain and arthritis. 

To summarise, the changes in our joints caused by arthritis are not always the reason for lack of function or discomfort. 

We want you to feel reassured knowing how common arthritis is, and how it doesn’t always mean the end of your mobility. 

It’s so common that we expect everyone aged 50+ to have some form of arthritis, whether they’re aware of it or not. If you don’t show any arthritic changes at this age, you would be the outlier! 

While we agree that arthritis will affect us all in some shape or form, we do not agree that it is always the cause of pain, stiffness or loss of function. 

Have You Been Told You Have Arthritis? 

Firstly, don’t panic. Arthritis is common and should definitely not feel like the end of the world. Sometimes you won’t even notice any discomfort at all in the affected area. 

Arthritic change in your joint is only one piece of the puzzle, it doesn’t exactly explain the reason for experiencing pain in your joints. 

We know from experience and recent research that in two people with the same arthritic diagnosis, one could be in pain and suffering from joint stiffness while the other is fine. 

We want to develop a program that is personalized to you. We will look at the mobility of the joint, the strength of the muscles and your overall health and fitness, to show us the bigger picture. It’s our job to work out why the pain is there and what we can do to help you. 

How Can Physical Therapy Help? 

Physical therapy is an extremely effective solution for prolonged pain and joints that have been affected by arthritis. We know that physical therapy is useful for strengthening muscles to support affected joints. We also target the mobility around the joint and look at how to improve the efficiency of the joint’s movement. 

In most cases we have been able to reduce arthritic associated pain to avoid the need of injections or even worse, joint replacement surgeries. 

Our dedicated team will work alongside you to produce an effective program that is personalized and aimed at your specific causes of discomfort. 

When Should You Get In Touch? 

In short, you should get in touch as soon as possible! 

We don’t want you to suffer in silence, book a free discovery visit today to take the first steps towards a pain free future. 

Whether you need support with diagnosed arthritic pain or even if it’s just advice regarding potential arthritis don’t hang about we’re here to help. 

We want to reassure you that arthritis is natural and extremely common. We know we can help you make positive changes to reduce any discomfort you may be experiencing. 

Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions get in touch and our team will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.


This is an expansion of a blog written by Ben Schacht on the 15th of June 2020 click here to read the original. 

Kevin Spahr

Kevin Spahr

Dr. Kevin Spahr, Minneapolis, MN Physical Therapist, understands that each patient is unique when it comes to injury and disease management. “The complexity of our bodies requires detailed examination and critical thinking to develop a care plan specific for each patient.” Dr. Spahr places high priority on customized treatment plans to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Kevin Spahr, originally from Winona, MN, completed his undergraduate studies at St. Mary’s University in his hometown. After graduation, he moved up to the Twin Cities metro area in 2005 to pursue his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree at St. Catherine University School of Health in Minneapolis, MN. My love and dedication to the world of physical therapy began at a young age dealing with personal injuries sustained in sports. My passion in life has always been to help others, and a physical therapist is the career path I chose. My focus is on you. My goal is to keep you happy and healthy. In his free time, Dr. Spahr enjoys spending time with his wife (Liz), dogs (Mia & Ellie), family and friends when not in the clinic. He also enjoys staying active, exercising and the outdoors.
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