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Are Your Joints Healthy?
If you have joint pain, you may have a joint condition—like arthritis—that can be treated. It's important to find out so you can prevent further damage.
How Joints Work
A joint is the space between two bones. For joint movement to be smooth and flexible, you need a layer of cushioning and lubrication between the bones. This layer is made up of a shock-absorbing tissue called cartilage and a natural fluid called synovial fluid. Healthy cartilage and synovial fluid make it possible for joints to move easily and comfortably.
How Joints Become Unhealthy
As some people age, their cartilage layer can become thin and frayed over time, decreasing its shock-absorbing properties. When this occurs, joints may start to feel stiff, and movement may become difficult and uncomfortable.
At first, the cartilage becomes rough, but it can deteriorate to the point where the bones begin to rub against each other. The bones may even begin to form lumps. Each of these stages can cause pain.
What Is Arthritis?
"Arthritis" is the term that refers to more than 100 different diseases that cause pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and connective tissue. One in six people in the U.S. suffer from some kind of arthritis.
Since osteoarthritis—the most common type of arthritis—is most likely a problem of pain more than inflammation, many medical experts recommend that pain relief should be the primary goal of drug therapy.
NEXT PAGE: The Two Most Common Types