Arthritis, Bursitis & Tendonitis
HOW DO THEY DIFFER?
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Ostoarthritis causes cartilage, the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of the bones where they form a joint to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of the joints (synovium). Bursitis occurs when bursae, small sacs between bone and moving parts like skin, muscle, or tendons become inflamed or irritated, preventing smooth gliding between moving parts. Tendonitis occurs when tendons, thick, fibrous chords that secure muscle to bone become inflamed or irritated.
Tendons and bursae are located near joints. Inflamed soft tissues will often be felt by patients as joint pain. This often will be mistaken for arthritis.
Symptoms of bursitis and tendonitis are similar, they include:
- Pain and stiffness that gets worse when moving.
- Pain may be felt more at night.
Almost any tendon or bursa in the body can be affected. Those located around a joint are affected most often. Tendonitis and bursitis are usually temporary. However, these conditions may come back often or become ongoing. They do not cause deformity, but they can limit motion.
- The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, involves wear and tear damage to your joint's cartilage. Enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection.
- In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining, known as the synovial membrane, becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.
- The most common cause of tendonitis and bursitis is injury and overuse during work or play. This is particularly true if the patient is unfit, has bad posture or uses the affected limb in an awkward way.
- Ultrasound therapy. Many think of ultrasound as an imaging technology, but when applied to soft tissues and joints, sound waves can also produce a massaging effect that helps reduce swelling and decrease pain and stiffness.
- Trigger-point therapy. Applying gentle pressure to a specific area of muscle where a patient experiences pain to alleviate that pain.
- Low-level laser therapy or "cold laser." This technique uses a non-heat producing laser or light that penetrates deep into the tissue, sometimes reducing inflammation.
Treatment of tendonitis or bursitis is based on the cause.
If overuse or injury is the cause, the patient may be told to reduce or avoid a particular activity. Taking the right body position during problem activities is important in preventing the injury from coming back. A warm-up before and correct posture during exercise is useful. Splinting the area, applying moist heat or ice, and using other forms of therapy are helpful.
Once tendonitis or bursitis goes away, preventing the condition from coming back is crucial. Proper conditioning, comfortable workstations, correct joint positioning, and splints or pads to protect affected areas should be considered.
Always remember, persistent pain should always be medically evaluated.
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