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There are more than 100 varieties of arthritis, and the causes of most types are unknown. Most types of arthritis are associated with long-term inflammation caused by a constant flow of toxins into the bloodstream by some form of infection in the system. Anything from an abscessed tooth to strep throat may be among the initial contributors. However, the true cause of arthritis is not known. Various forms of arthritis affect people of all ages, from young children to the elderly. Treatment for arthritis may include such medications as cortisone, but doctors mostly encourage a healthy lifestyle, adjustments in diet, and different forms of bodywork, according to the specific disorder. Massage, specifically, is encouraged in sub-acute cases of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis Types and Symptoms

There are many disorders classified as arthritis that are not always associated with the disease. With more than 100 varieties of arthritis, and more than 2.1 million American affected by Rheumatoid arthritis alone, it is almost guaranteed that every American will come in contact with some variety of arthritis in their lifetimes. Here are five major disorders associated with arthritis that possibly every person has heard of at one time or another:

TMJ Disorder
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Jaw joint clicks, locks, and pops
Constant pain and fatigue, focusing on tender points
Bone tired feeling
Inflammation of joints, pain, difficulty moving, swelling
One of the oldest and most common types of arthritis
Makes chewing, and even opening the mouth wide, difficult
Sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety
Associated with Depression, helplessness, and fatigue
Loss of appetite, fever, loss of energy, anemia, can affect other parts of the body
Characterized by the breakdown of joints' cartilage
Associated with teeth grinding
Feelings of confusion, lapses of memory, word mix-ups, and difficulty concentrating
Involved the heart, lungs, skin, joints, blood-forming organs, kidneys, and nervous system
Lumps under the skin in areas subject to pressure
Bones rub against each other, causing pain and decreased range of motion
May be treated by removing fluid from the joint
Associated with migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ pain, skin color changes, tingling limbs, and restless leg syndrome
Sensitivity to light, 'mask' rash over eyes called Malar
Involves the inflammation of the lining of joints and/or internal organs
Most commonly in middle-aged to older people, predominantly affects hands and weight-bearing joints

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect anyone of any age, though it is most common among 20 to 40-year-olds. Women are affected about three times more often than men. Rheumatoid arthritis, commonly called RA, can run in families, though a genetic predisposition is not a guarantee that RA will affect any one individual and not another.

In RA, the body's complex immune system is triggered, by several different pathogens, and targets the synovial membranes of the body's joints instead of the invading pathogen. In later stages of the disease the antibodies may attack other areas of the body, even the heart and lungs. In a worse case scenario, the body may develop scar tissue that may even cause the affected joints to fuse, but this is relatively rare. After a period of about fifteen years about twenty percent go into remission, and only about ten percent end up permanently disabled. Most people affected are able to continue working full-time.

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention of RA may seem difficult, as any number of pathogens may jump the body into an autoimmune response. The important thing, once RA has been diagnosed, is preventing RA from spreading further throughout the body. Some experts suggest changing the diet to one as near vegetarian and as alkali based (foods such as potatoes, rather than foods, like citrus, that have an acid base) as possible to prevent arthritic pain. RA goes through acute phases and sub-acute phases (when the joints are left stiff, but not inflamed). Massage is strongly encouraged by the American Arthritis Foundation for the sub-acute phases of RA, though discouraged in the acute phase, as massage increases circulation and may increase the chance that the disease in this phase may spread. Doctors encourage a healthy lifestyle of eating right, exercising frequently, and treatments to reduce stress for arthritis sufferers of all types. Massage, acupuncture, and Shiatsu, may be beneficial in reducing the effects of RA on joints' range of motion and be beneficial in keeping the joints supple and mobile. In cases where soft tissue is affected, massage is indicated to promote the mobility and health of the soft tissues around the joints. This is important, as the soft tissue may be under considerable strain in an RA sufferer. Massage may also help balance the nervous system, which may help reduce the probability of an autoimmune response.