Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease, afflicting some 27 million people in the United States alone—and the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis brings many clients to massage therapy.

New research explored the role that inflammation plays in the development of osteoarthritis.

Investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that the development of osteoarthritis is in great part driven by low-grade inflammatory processes, according to a press release, and “This is at odds with the prevailing view attributing the condition to a lifetime of wear and tear on long-suffering joints.”

“It’s a paradigm change,” said William Robinson, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s senior author, of the implication of the findings. “People in the field predominantly view osteoarthritis as a matter of simple wear and tear, like tires gradually wearing out on a car.”

It also is commonly associated with problems such as a tear in the meniscus—a cartilage-rich, crescent-shaped pad that serves as a shock-absorber in joints—or some other traumatic damage to a joint, the press release noted.

But Robinson’s paper suggests a different way of understanding the disease the press release noted, adding, “Its findings offer hope that by targeting the inflammatory processes that occur early on in the development of osteoarthritis, well before it progresses to the point where symptoms appear, the condition might someday be preventable.”

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