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​Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints (the parts where bones meet and move). It can affect any joint in your body.

Arthritis causes pain, swelling and limited movement in joints and connective tissues in the body.

According to the CDC, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. have some form of arthritis or chronic joint symptoms.

Arthritis is a catchall term for more than 100 different diseases known as rheumatic diseases.​

Types of arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. OA is usually a slowly progressive degenerative disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away. It most often affects middle-aged and older people.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can destroy the joint cartilage. RA can occur at any age.

Marshfield Clinic Orthopedic surgeons work closely with Rheumatologists to treat arthritis.

Ankle and foot

In addition to the general treatment options listed below, your doctor may recommend the following for ankle and foot arthritis:

  • Orthotic devices (pads and shoe inserts) can be custom fit for a patient to provide cushioning to minimize pain when walking and give needed support to improve the foot's mechanics.
  • Accommodative shoes are used to relieve pressure and pain and assist with walking.
  • Canes and braces may be used to take pressure off the joint and limit movement allowing swelling to be reduced.


Arthritis in the elbow is much less common than other joints, but can be quite disabling.

Much like the shoulder, there are different joint surfaces to consider, each with their own associated difficulties. Evaluation by a specialist with experience in treating elbow pain can help to identify what type of treatments may be most effective for each patient on a case-by-case basis.


Arthritis of the hand occurs when the cartilage between the joints wears away or is damaged and the bones no longer have a smooth surface for movement.

Hand arthritis can come from both disease and injury.

A splint can be used to provide support for the affected joint and still allow for some use of the hand. The use of a splint is often combined with a course of injections for pain relief.


Arthritis of the hip can make walking and standing painful. It can cause reduced mobility and other complications. Your doctor may recommend reducing your weight or use of assistive devices such as canes and walkers.

In more advanced cases, a surgical solution may be required. This could include resurfacing or a partial or total joint replacement.


Your knee joint is the largest joint in your body. Years of use, injury or arthritis can make walking painful. Your doctor may recommend one of the non-surgical treatments below or a surgical solution.

A surgical solution could range from moderate repair on the knee joint to a total joint replacement.


Although most people think of the shoulder as a single joint, there are really two joints in the area of the shoulder.

One is located where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the tip of the shoulder bone (acromion) called the acromioclavicular or AC joint. The junction of the upper arm bone (humerus) with the shoulder blade (scapula) is called the glenohumeral joint.

To provide you with effective treatment, your physician will need to determine which joint is affected and what type of arthritis you have. While AC joint arthritis may commonly be seen on x-ray, its true contribution to shoulder pain is variable and is best determined on a patient by patient basis. Glenohumeral arthritis may take many forms, but most commonly presents as aching pain made worse with motion, and with limitation in range of motion.


Arthritis of the spine is common as people age. In many cases, the symptoms can be treated with non-surgical options such as those listed below. In addition, physical therapy may be helpful in some cases.

Arthritis of the spine can be painful and more severe cases may need surgical treatment.​

Treatment of arthritis

Depending of the type of arthritis and joints involved, your doctor may recommend different treatment options.

  • Non-surgical. This may include lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, exercising or changing your exercise routine, supportive devices and other measures.
  • Medication. Your doctor may recommend different medications based on the type and location of your arthritis. This may include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs or more powerful prescription medications.
  • Surgery. Your doctor may decide you will benefit from a surgical procedure. The options range from simple to the more complex. Arthroscopic surgery is a look inside the joint to clean it out and repair torn cartilage. More complex surgery includes different procedures depending on the joint involved. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a total joint replacement.​

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