Around the globe on a daily basis, people are being told that the cause of their joint pain is osteoarthritis. This leads to their taking medications, having cortisone shots, epidural nerve blocks or even surgeries.

Let me be clear: The process of osteoarthritis does not cause pain. This is strictly a cultural precept and there is absolutely no logical basis for this theory. I will explain…

Let’s start with an understanding of what osteoarthritis is. Joints are comprised of two bones that approximate one another. There is a joint space between the bones that is typically maintained by a meniscus or labrum (cartilage). At the ends of each bone is a form of cartilage called hyaline cartilage. It is hard and smooth and designed to take the forces that run through the joint.

Due to lack of strength or muscle imbalance, the two joint surfaces become misaligned. Instead of having 100% of the joint surfaces making contact to absorb the forces exerted through the joint, you may have 90% of the joint surfaces aligned. It’s not hard to figure out that 90% of the joint surface was not designed to take 100% of the force. This misalignment leads to excessive force being applied at the end of the joint surfaces. And that is what leads to the erosion of the hyaline cartilage.

Hence, you can see that osteoarthritis is not an inflammatory process but a mechanical wearing down of the joint surfaces. This is why taking anti-inflammatory medication makes no sense. (By the way, the only reason these drugs appear to reduce pain is because they act as sedatives in the brain!)

Eventually the hyaline cartilage is worn away and you have bone exposed and bone rubbing on bone. Once that happens, you can either develop deterioration of bone or excessive bone growth. Bone spurs and bunions are also forms of excessive bone growth. Concavities at the surface of a joint are indications of bone erosion. In either case, the process progresses so slowly that you don’t notice, and you don’t feel pain.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why do arthritic joints look inflamed if there is no inflammation?” In fact, they do not look inflamed. There are four symptoms for inflammation to be considered present: swelling, heat, redness and pain. The first three are almost never present with arthritis, proving that inflammation is not the cause of the pain. What is present is the appearance of distortion of the bone. This is the result of excessive bone growth as I just explained.

Here is a fun fact that I am sure you don’t know: This same process of progressive development of bone or progressive erosion of bone is occurring inside your bones at all times—and yet nobody complains of pain in their bones due to this. Cells called osteoblasts cause new bone to develop while cells called osteoclasts cause bone to be eroded.

Now that you have an understanding of how osteoarthritis develops and why this process does not cause pain, the next point I want to make is about whether pain ever exists in a place where this process occurs. The answer is yes—in one instance. As I noted above, erosion at a joint can occur. If this erosion eventually reaches a point where there is simply no joint space left then the lack of space between the joint surfaces will cause the bones to hit in a way that causes pain. This is not the type of finding that can be documented through an X-ray or MRI, which are incapable of seeing the difference between small amounts of joint space and no joint space. For bone on bone to be a correct diagnosis there must be a major loss of range of motion of a joint and at the end of the range—it should literally feel like a bone is hitting another bone and stopping further motion.

Studies have shown that as many people with no pain can be found to have osteoarthritis as those with pain. One study took people with knee pain who were diagnosed with osteoarthritis as the cause and broke them into three groups. One group had a debridement (surgically removing the osteoarthritis), one group had a visage (a “washing out” of the joint) and one group had a mock surgery. The results indicated no difference in recovery between the three groups. The conclusion of the study was that osteoarthritis does not cause pain.

But you shouldn’t need a study to tell you this. Just look around you and you will see lots of people with obvious arthritic changes of the fingers or other body parts. They say they never have pain or that the pain is only intermittent. If osteoarthritis causes pain then you would have to expect the symptoms to be constant as the osteoarthritis is constant. You have people say that their pain resolves when they take a hot shower or get massaged. Does this imply that the osteoarthritic changes can be melted away by warm water or pushed away during a massage?

The purpose of this blog is to give you facts and break the foolish and baseless culturally developed concepts that keep you in pain. It is your choice to take action to resolve what is likely the real cause of your joint pain. And that action, as I’ve written about in previous posts and articles, is doing exercises to correct muscle weakness and imbalance. Here are a few places to learn more…

Click here to buy Mitchell Yass’s books,The Yass Method for Pain-Free Movement: A Guide to Easing through Your Day without Aches and Pains, or check out his website.

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