Understanding Inflammation Can Help Your Arthritis

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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understanding inflammation

Most patients have heard of the term “inflammation” and know it means swelling. They’ve even seen some news pieces that show that it’s generally bad. However, most patients don’t understand that a simple blood test can measure inflammation and whether it’s making their arthritis worse. A recent study helps to shed some light on how this works.

First, inflammation literally means to cause fire. Our ancestors picked this word because when we injure something it swells and gets hot. You can extend that metaphor to better understand how the inflammation in your whole body interacts with the inflammation in your arthritic joints.

Think of your arthritis pain as a small local fire. Like any small fire in a big forest (your body), if the conditions are right it can either spread easily or will quickly die out. So for example, a small fire in a wet forest (someone with very little whole body inflammation) won’t last long. This is what happens when someone without whole body inflammation injures a part or has localized arthritis. It hurts and then goes away or it stays local and small. However, take that same small fire (an arthritic joint) and introduce it into a hot and dry forest (your body) with other small fires, and it will burn hotter and hotter.

The study adds some credence to this basic concept. The authors looked at 32 other published studies on a common inflammatory blood marker, c-reactive protein (CRP). A high level of this marker means whole body inflammation is high. Higher levels of CRP (meaning the forest is hot and dry) correlated across the many studies with more pain and disability from arthritis. A lower CRP (the wet forest), meant less pain and disability caused by the arthritis.

How would you know if your CRP is high and your body is a fire incubator? Get a special sub test of CRP, called hsCRP (high sensitivity). If it’s under 1.0 mg/L, your body is the forest that won’t stoke inflammatory fires. If it’s 1.0-3.0 you should be concerned about pushing your levels lower. If it’s above 3.0, your body is the perfect fire storm. In addition to arthritis, these high hsCRP levels are also associated with higher cardiac risk, so this test is bigger than just arthritis.

How can you get your CRP lower? Follow my anti-inflammatory recommendations for using supplement mixes and regenerative medicine.  After you add in an anti-inflammatory regimen, simply retest your CRP.

The upshot? Understanding inflammation and the status of your body’s inflammation can make a huge difference in whether those arthritis aches and pains disable you or are brushed off in your pursuit of being very active as you age. For more in depth advice on this, read my book, Regenexx ProActive. 

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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