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Massage Today
June, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 06

Traumatic Arthritis

By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Question: Is the arthritis associated with an injury something that lasts forever once you have it?

Answer: No

The arthritis associated with an injury does not necessarily last forever.

Arthritis simply means an irritation and inflammation in the joint. There are many forms of arthritis, some minor and others more serious. Osteoarthritis means bone is rubbing on bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease condition that affects multiple joints throughout the body. Traumatic arthritis is an inflammation of the joint and occurs as part of the body's reaction to injury. Traumatic arthritis is usually temporary; it is the body's way of protecting the injured joint.

In certain joints, traumatic arthritis may occur with or without a trauma. For instance, in the shoulder, a traumatic arthritis may occur by itself without any precipitating injury to adjacent structures. The joint progressively stiffens due to swelling and the subsequent formation of scar tissue within the joint capsule. This condition, also referred to as a frozen shoulder, usually resolves without treatment in approximately nine months to a year.

In most joints, traumatic arthritis is the result of an injury to the supporting ligaments or other structures contained within or associated with the joint. This injury triggers the body's inflammatory response. For instance, if ligaments in the ankle are sprained, the resulting joint swelling which generally occurs is called a traumatic arthritis. If treated properly, the joint swelling (traumatic arthritis) will be gone when the primary irritation to the joint is eliminated, or the precipitating injury is addressed and successfully treated. Sometimes this may take a period of time. If the primary injury to the joint or the precipitating injury is not addressed, the swelling may remain even longer, damaging the joint for a lifetime.

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