Is Arthritis the Culprit of Your Pain or is it an Innocent Bystander?

In many cases people are told “you have arthritis” and that “your joints are just wearing out” in regards to their pain and difficulty with walking, standing, exercising, etc. The question is, however, is arthritis the pain generator? What if I told you that much of pain that is labeled “arthritis pain” doesn't look at the whole picture?

In order to accurately say if arthritis is the culprit or merely a scapegoat, your assessment must be one which incorporates movement and functional activity (squatting, walking, bending, lifting, all the "-ing" activities). The assessment must also observe if the pain is CHANGEABLE with specific movement or exercises.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. I get patients all the time who have been told they “just have arthritis,” but when I do specific movements with them all of a sudden their pain with an activity they normally couldn’t do either significantly reduces or goes away completely. What happened to the arthritis? Did it magically go away because we moved around?

The answer is NO if you were wondering. The only logical explanation for those cases is that the arthritis was NOT the pain generator. If that is so, what was? After all we "NEED to know what it is that is causing the pain" (that's a common saying that often leads to time lost and a lot unneccesary money spent). The truth is there are many different things that research shows us with ANY joint that can cause pain, not just arthritis. That’s why an assessment that observes movement and the effect of specific exercises/motions on pain is vital.

While we are on the topic, this phenomenon where arthritis is found NOT to be the pain generator is also found with almost any diagnosis (meniscus tears, partial rotator cuff tears, labral tears, “stenosis”, etc). That’s not to say they can’t be the offending problem, but we must not be tunnel visioned into thinking because I have a labrum torn in my shoulder, that’s why I have shoulder pain. It could very well be the pain is coming from the neck.

If you have questions about the topic discussed today or wish to book an appointment for evaluation, feel free to email me at You may fill out the contact form on the website

-Dr. D

#Arthritis #PhysicalTherapy #Pain