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The term arthritis refers to over 100 different muscle/skeletal conditions characterized primarily by joint inflammation. Arthritis is one of the most common medical problems in the world. It is the number one cause of disability in the United States, afflicting over 40 million Americans. In some worse cases, caregiver service may be required to assist the individual suffering from advanced stages of arthritis.The word arthritis is a combination of the Greek words arthron (joint) and itis (inflammation). The most common forms of the disease are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and fibromyalgia. Most of the diseases of arthritis are characterized by joint inflammation, pain and stiffness.
About the joints
The body's joints work with muscles to enable a wide range of movements. They provide support, stability, flexibility and protection. They are extremely agile and very durable; however, they are highly susceptible to damage and pain.
A joint exists anywhere where two bones meet. These bones that meet in a joint are capped with cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber. Cartilage is a smooth, slippery, yet tough material that enables bones to glide over each other.
Joints are surrounded and lubricated by the synovial membrane. The synovial membrane is the inner lining of the joint capsule. The capsule is a durable, fibrous material that attaches to each bone that intersects in a joint. Ligaments - strong, fibrous cords that attach one bone to another - provide for joint alignment, support and stability. Joints are held together by muscles, which are tipped by tendons that attach to bone just outside the capsule above or below the joint. Bursae are fluid filled sacs between muscles, tendons and bones that are friction reducing and present near many joints. Each bursa (sac) is lined with synovial membrane that releases a lubricating fluid. Arthritis interferes with these complex processes and causes the joints to become stiff and often inflamed. Arthritis leaves joints unable to handle too much stress, leading to pain during movement and at rest.
There are four types of joints.
1) Hinge Joints
These joints are much like the hinge of a door. Hinge joints allow you to move forward and backward. Knees are hinge joints.
2) Fixed Joints
Fixed joints do not move. They are designed to absorb shock. Skull bones are an example of fixed joints.
3) Pivot Joints
Pivot joints permit rotating movement. Elbows are pivot joints.
4) Ball-and-socket Joints
Ball-and-socket joint provide the most movement. Ball and socket joints are characterized by a long bone that fits into the hollow region of another bone, allowing for both rotating and swinging movement. An example is a hip joint.
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