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Bone and Joint Conditions

Some of the conditions we treat at the UNM Health System's Orthopaedics Center are not constrained to a single joint or area of the body but instead can affect multiple joints or parts of the skeleton, which requires our skill and expertise to help you treat the symptoms and mitigate your discomfort. 


Arthritis occurs when one (or more) joints becomes inflamed. Some causes of arthritis include general wear and tear, autoimmune disorders, uric acid crystals, underlying diseases and infection.

  • Symptoms of arthritis vary depending on the type and severity of your condition, but they typically include:
    • Joint pain
    • Redness around joint areas
    • Swelling
    • Stiffness and decreased range of motion
    • Two most common types of arthritis are:
      • Osteoarthritis – Caused by wear and tear of joints over time that can result in pain and restricted mobility as bone rubs against bone. Other factors include age, genetics, obesity and general muscle weakness.
        • This is the most common form of arthritis, and it is known to affect the knees, hips, hands, neck and lower back. There is no cure, but proper treatment will help alleviate symptoms
        • Treatment includes:
          • Cold and warm compresses
          • Weight loss to reduce stress on weight-bearing joints
          • Pain medication (both over the counter and prescription strength) designed to reduce pain and swelling
          • Physical therapy exercises, splints or braces to help range of motion and strengthen surrounding muscle groups
          • In some cases surgery (like joint replacement or joint fusion) may be necessary.
      • Rheumatoid arthritis – Occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, inflaming the connective tissue membrane that enables free movement in the joints. This is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling, redness and pain as it destroys cartilage and bone.
        • Diagnostic tests are conducted to determine the presence of arthritis. Once the condition is diagnosed, a physician will prescribe a treatment plan for your particular condition.


Inflammation in the fluid-filled pads known as bursae, which are scattered throughout the body to provide a cushion for the joints, is the cause of bursitis.

  • Symptoms of bursitis may include:
    • Aching or stiffness in the affected joint
    • Swelling or redness
    • Pain upon movement
    • Pain upon touching or putting pressure on the affected joint
    • Lumps under the skin near the affected joint
    • Pain when activity is increased
    • Common causes include repetitive motions and positions that can irritate the bursae, including:
      • Kneeling or leaning
      • Throwing or lifting motions
      • Prolonged sitting
      • Puncture wounds that may lead to bleeding and infection in the bursae

Your physician may be able to diagnose bursitis based on medical history and a physical exam. However, other tests – including x-rays, MRIs or a fluid test – may be required.

Injury-related bursitis will often heal on its own with the use of anti-inflammatory medication, ice and rest. However, physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles in the area and may prevent a reoccurrence. Only in very rare cases is surgery required.


This is a degenerative condition that causes bones in the skeleton to become weak and brittle. It results from a disruption in the normal bone remodeling process. Women, especially Caucasian and Asian women, are at a higher risk.

  • Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
    • Insufficient calcium or vitamin D in diet
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Long-term use of corticosteroids
    • Tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption
    • Anorexia nervosa
    • Age
    • Family history
    • Small body frame
    • Symptoms include:
      • Severe back pain (typically as a result of a collapsed or fractured vertebra)
      • A stooped posture
      • Loss of height over time
      • Bone fractures

The only known methods of prevention include healthy intakes of calcium and vitamin D along with regular exercise.

Our skilled staff will use numerous tests to diagnose osteoporosis. These include measuring bone density through dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, ultrasounds and CT scans. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends women over the age of 65 and men over the age of 70 get a bone density test.

  • Treatment used to slow bone loss and maintain bone density and mass include:
    • Physical therapy
    • Medications
    • Hormone therapy

Schedule an appointment: (505) 272-4866

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