Arthrosis (Joint Erosion) – Symptoms, Types, Treatment

What is Arthrosis?

Arthrosis can be defined in two different ways. Anatomically, arthrosis refers to a joint between two or more bones. There are different types of joints in the body, such as hinge joints, ball and socket joints, pivot joints, condyloid joints, saddle joints, and gliding joints. These different types of joints allow different types of movements. The term “arthrosis” is also used in a pathological context. Arthrosis refers to degenerative changes in the joints.

Arthrosis is characterized by an erosion of the cartilages of the affected joints. In most cases, arthrosis is considered to be either a synonym or an early stage of osteoarthritis. Arthrosis is more common in the elderly, especially those who have been very active in life. This may be due to the diminished ability to repair the chronic wear and tear in the articulating cartilages of the joints with aging.

Read more on osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Arthrosis

In the initial stages, arthrosis does not present with any symptoms. The symptoms arise gradually as the degeneration of the joint cartilages occurs over a long period of time. These symptoms deteriorate gradually over a long period of time. Arthrosis may be characterized by the following symptoms.

Pain in the joints

Pain in the joints typically occurs during or after some movements at the affected joints. Rest provides relief from the pain. Applying firm pressure on the skin that overlies the affected joint may also cause pain. Arthrosis is a degenerative rather than an inflammatory condition of the joints. Therefore, swelling of the joints (seen in inflammatory joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis) is usually absent in arthrosis.

Stiffness of the joints

Arthrosis is also frequently characterized by stiffness in the affected joints. Stiffness is most likely to occur due to long term inactivity (such as in the early morning hours). Movement may provide relief from stiffness but can also elicit pain. Chronic stiffness in the joints can gradually lead to loss of flexibility and mobility.

Sounds from joints

As arthrosis progresses, abnormal clicking, snapping and grating sounds may emanate from the affected joints. Under normal conditions, the joint cartilages that rub together during movements are lubricated with synovial fluid. This makes the movements at the joints silent. In arthrosis, the movements at the joints are hampered, leading to grating sounds when the degenerating joint cartilages rub against each other.

Hard lumps in joints

In the later stages of arthrosis, bony outgrowths may occur in the joints. These bony outgrowths, known as spurs, can be felt as hard lumps through the skin over the joints.

Arthrosis vs Arthritis

Arthrosis and arthritis are both joint conditions that result in the degeneration of the joint cartilages. However, they are different conditions. Unlike arthritis, arthrosis is a non-inflammatory joint condition. Arthritis affects the lining of the joints, whereas arthrosis affects the articular cartilage and bone.

Joint swelling is a predominant feature of arthritis. However, arthrosis does not present with joint swelling. Arthritis could result from inflammatory, infectious, and autoimmune causes. Arthrosis is usually caused by age-related wear and tear in the joints.

Treatment of Arthrosis

Arthrosis is typically an age-related condition. Therefore, it has limited treatment options. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen may be given to manage the pain. Physical therapy may help in improving the mobility of the joints. In severe cases, injection of lubricants or cortisone may be done in the affected joints. Joint replacement is also an option in advanced cases with significant erosion of articular cartilages and the ends of bones.

Types of Arthrosis

Arthrosis may be classified on the basis of the types of joints that are affected. The joints of ankles, knees, back, hips, and shoulders are most commonly affected.

Cervical arthrosis

Cervical arthrosis affects the joints between the bones of the cervical vertebrae in the neck. Chronic neck problems that start early in life due to poor posture are most likely the cause of cervical arthrosis. Prolonged computer usage in the modern societies around the world is a major contributor to cervical arthrosis. The symptoms of cervical arthrosis include stiffness and pain in the neck.

Neck muscles may also undergo local spasms, leading to localized neck pain and tension-type headaches. The pain may also extend down the shoulder and the arms. Over a period of time, cervical arthrosis results in erosion of the cartilages in cervical joints. Treatment of cervical arthrosis involves physical therapy to relax the neck muscles and medications to treat the pain.

The neck should be rested as much as possible. Wearing a neck collar may provide temporary relief by reducing the strain on the joints.

Facet arthrosis

Facet joints refer to the joints between the vertebrae or the backbone. These joints are formed by the superior and inferior articular processes of the vertebral bones. The facet joints undergo wear and tear due to weight bearing. Poor posture can cause undue stress on these joints. Aging and back injuries are the main causes of facet arthrosis. Symptoms of facet arthritis include back pain that is triggered while sitting, standing, or moving.

Lying on a flat surface eases the back pain. The exact location of the pain varies according to the joints that are affected. For example, pain may be felt in the neck, mid back, or lower back regions. Pain in the entire back area is unlikely. Treatment involves resting and reducing activity levels. Pain may be managed through medication.


Coxarthrosis refers to arthrosis of the hip joint. The main cause of coxarthrosis is age-related degeneration of the articular cartilages in the hip joint. Coxarthrosis is one of the more common types of arthrosis in the elderly. It is also more likely to occur in professional athletes as they age. Obese individuals are also at a higher risk of developing coxarthrosis as they age.

Pain in the hips is the main symptom of coxarthrosis. The pain exacerbates during activities such as running, walking, and standing. Lying down or sitting eases the pain. The range of motion at the hip joint is also compromised. Medication and conservative measures are usually ineffective in treating coxarthrosis. In severe cases, surgical replacement of the hip joint may be required.

Lumbar arthrosis

Lumbar arthrosis affects the lower back, and is predominantly seen in the elderly. Bad posture, occupational wear and tear in joints, and age-related changes are usually the causes of lumbar arthrosis. Abdominal obesity may be a risk factor. Lower back pain caused by lumbar arthrosis exacerbates when walking or standing and eases upon lying down or sitting. Bending becomes difficult or impossible. Physical therapy and brace on the lower back may provide some relief. Weight control is also recommended.

Knee arthrosis

Arthrosis of the knee is also one of the most common forms of arthrosis. Physically active individuals (such as sports professionals) are more likely to develop this condition. Obesity is also a risk factor. Tenderness and pain in the knee joint are common symptoms. Sitting or lying down eases the symptoms. Knee brace may provide temporary relief. Surgical replacement of the knee joint is considered in severe cases.

AC joint arthrosis

Acromioclavicular arthrosis (or AC joint arthrosis) refers to arthrosis of the shoulder joint. Three bones (clavicle, scapula and humerus) participate in the shoulder joint. The acromioclavicular joint is formed between the scapula and the clavicle. AC joint arthrosis is common in weight lifters and professional bodybuilders. Tenderness and pain in the shoulder joint is a typical symptom. Lifting weights above the chest increases the pain. Resting the arms eases the pain. Orthopedic arm slings can be used to immobilize the arms. Pain may be managed through medication.

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