All forms of arthritis are musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders, although some also involve the immune system.

The MSK system is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They work together to allow the body to move in different ways. A layer of tissue, called cartilage, helps the bones glide smoothly across each other and protects them from damage.

The term “arthritis” refers to several conditions that affect the muscles, joints, and bones. All forms of arthritis are MSK conditions. Arthritis causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. It also prevents typical movement.

This article will explain MSK conditions and the body parts involved in the MSK system. It will also look at different types of arthritis, risk factors for developing it, and ways to minimize its impact.

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MSK disorders affect the bones, muscles, joints, and tissues.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 150 MSK disorders. These can be acute, such as fractures and sprains, chronic, or lifelong conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and connective tissues.

MSK conditions cause pain as well as decreased mobility and agility. They also impair a person’s ability to function.

Some examples of musculoskeletal disorders are:

The following structures make up the musculoskeletal system:

  • Bones: The bones provide the body’s structure and protect soft organs. The ends of bones have thin layers of cartilage that protect them from rubbing together at the joints. After an injury or over time, cartilage can wear or tear away, leading to arthritis.
  • Muscles: Skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles, meaning individuals can consciously control their actions. They are made up of thousands of strong fibers bundled together.
  • Tendons: Tendons are strong connective tissues that secure muscles to bone. Inflamed and irritated tendons may lead to tendinitis.
  • Ligaments: Ligaments are strong connective tissues that secure bones together. Injury or arthritis can weaken, tear, or strain ligaments.
  • Bursae: Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid that lubricates the joint. Bursae pad the bones of the joint and ease contact between the tendons and bones.

Arthritis is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 1 in 4 U.S adults has arthritis. Below are some of the most common types of arthritis:

  • OA: OA is the most common type of arthritis, impacting 32.5 million adults. In OA, the cartilage that protects the ends of bones wears away. The bone reacts by growing bony spurs or by wearing down.
  • RA: RA affects around 1.5 million adults in the United States, and its prevalence is increasing. RA is an autoimmune disorder where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells, causing painful swelling and inflammation.
  • Psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA is rare among the general population but more common among people with psoriasis. Psoriasis affects 7.4 million adults, and 6–41% also develop PsA. People with more severe psoriasis are more likely to develop PsA.
  • Gout: Gout affects around 8.3 million people in the United States. Gout develops from metabolic imbalances that can lead to joint inflammation. It is more common in males than females, and the risks increase with age.

Learn more about the causes and types of arthritis here.

Many factors can contribute to arthritis. A person can control some risk factors but not others.

According to the CDC, risk factors that a person cannot control include:

  • age
  • gender
  • genetics

Risk factors that a person may be able to control include:

  • carrying excess weight
  • having untreated infections
  • joint injuries
  • occupations that require repetitive stress on certain joints
  • smoking

According to the Arthritis Foundation, a person may not need to talk with a doctor about infrequent or mild joint pain. If joint symptoms last 3 days or more or a person has several episodes of pain within a month, they must talk with a doctor.

The symptoms of arthritis can come and go, but for the majority of people, they either stay the same or get worse over time.

A person can manage their arthritis through medications and lifestyle choices. People can learn what triggers episodes of inflammation and makes their arthritis worse. Some people may have an inflammatory response to certain foods, activities or emotional states such as stress.

The following tips from the American College of Rheumatology may be helpful for people living with arthritis:

  • Avoid repeated joint motions, such as frequent bending.
  • Achieve and maintain a moderate weight.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Use adaptive devices to make daily tasks easier.
  • Use pillows to support painful joints during sleep.

A person may benefit from working with a physical therapist to learn exercises that strengthen the muscles around the joints. An occupational therapist can teach techniques for minimizing the impact of daily activities.

A person must have regular check-ups with a doctor to ensure they get the right medication and support.

Learn more about physical therapy for arthritis pain here.

The musculoskeletal system contains bones, muscles, and soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons. Arthritis is a musculoskeletal condition. The term “arthritis” encompasses different degenerative conditions that affect the joints, muscles, bones, and surrounding areas.

Types of arthritis include OA, RA, PsA, and gout. OA is the most common type of arthritis in the United States.

People can lower their risk of arthritis and minimize symptoms by taking medications and making healthy lifestyle choices.

If a person suspects they have arthritis, it can help to identify what triggers their symptoms. A person should contact a doctor if they have persistent joint pain, swelling, or stiffness.