Arthritis: Mystery Cause

Any purely physical theory of aging cannot help but be incomplete. Consider arthritis, one of the most common symptoms of age. In medical school we were taught that common arthritis (or osteo-arthritis) is a degenerative disorder. This means that its cause is simple wear and tear.

After a lifetime of hard use, the cushioning cartilage in large weight-bearing joints deteriorates, which explains why the knee and hip joints, which carry the burden of supporting the body, tend to be favored sites for arthritis.

The synovium, the smooth lining that cushions the bones where they meet, also becomes inflamed or deteriorated, leading to the pain, swelling, and burning of arthritis. Sometimes the synovial fluid dries up, and the bones grind against each other, creating pits or bone spurs. This kind of degeneration has plagued mankind since the Stone Age.

As the cause of arthritis, wear and tear appeals to common sense, but it fails to explain several things. Some people never become arthritic, even though they subject their joints to extreme stress. Other people develop arthritis after a lifetime of sedentary desk work, not to mention that certain favorite spots for the disease, such as the fingers, are not called upon to bear weight at all.

Newer theories of arthritis look to hormones, genetics, autoimmune breakdown, diet, and other factors; in the end, no clear cause is known.

However, emotional factors have been strongly linked to another major type of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis. This disorder seems to favor women who have a marked tendency to repress emotion, who adopt passivity and depression as a mode of coping with stress rather than getting angry or confronting serious emotional issues.

The disease can get worse under stress, and, for inexplicable reasons, it can also disappear, perhaps in obedience to a deeper current of change.

Adapted from Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1998).

111 comments

William C
William C9 days ago

Thanks.

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W. C
W. C10 days ago

Thank you.

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Elisa F.
Elisa F3 years ago

Good to know :) Thanks.

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Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan4 years ago

Good to know. Thank you Deepak.

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Deborah Allen
Deborah Allen4 years ago

Mr. Chopra, your comments reveal you to be entirely ignorant about medicine, certainly regarding rheumatoid arthritis. It is not only archaic (were you raised in Victorian times?) and entirely unfounded to claim that RA is caused by women's inability to deal with their emotions... but, worse, it is irresponsible to make this claim, knowing that there are people who trust what you tell them. When someone is diagnosed with RA, it is absolutely essential for them to take a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, to prevent future disability. Shame on you, sir, if your comments cause anyone to stop taking their medication in the belief that all they need is to gain control of their emotions. If they do, the resultant disability will be on your conscience.

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Marianne B.
Marianne B5 years ago

Too bad there is no cure.

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Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy5 years ago

I think I have arthritis in my hips, pain or soreness nearly all the time

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Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

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K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Jelin C.
Jelin C.7 years ago

Arthritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the joints. Other common types of chronic pain are backache, muscle pain, headache, and sore feet. my mother was suffering from this and I know how painful it was.

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