Diagnosing Arthritis

Arthritis can indeed cause aching pain in your joints that may interfere with your ability to enjoy an active lifestyle. 

Did you know, though, that many effective treatments exist that can reduce your pain and stall arthritis progression? However, before that can happen, it’s vital to understand whether it’s genuinely arthritis that’s causing your discomfort and, perhaps most important, what type of arthritis you’re experiencing.

The Pain Institute of Southern Arizona (PISA) includes a team of board-certified experts who specialize in treating chronic pain disorders like arthritis. With offices conveniently located in Tucson, Green Valley, Safford, and Benson, we offer the highest quality diagnostic and pain management services to residents throughout Arizona.

Learn more about diagnosing arthritis and the treatments we offer to relieve pain and restore your mobility.   

Arthritis types

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the most common of which fall into two categories:


Also referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, this type is often related to changes in the cartilage that cushions the bones’ ends within your joints. Osteoarthritis may also be due to repetitive motion common in many sports, work activities, and hobbies such as pitching, running, painting, or gardening.

Osteoarthritis causes stiffness and aching in joints that typically starts slowly and is at its worst first thing in the morning or after prolonged inactivity. Eventually, however, the discomfort and pain can become quite debilitating and long-lasting as more cartilage wears away. It can affect any joint but is most common in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes widespread inflammation as your immune system attacks and destroys healthy cells throughout your body. RA causes painful swelling in your joints as it erodes soft tissue structures and bone. Affected joints often become red, swollen, tender, and warm to the touch.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

At PISA, our specialists rely heavily on your symptomatology and diagnostic imaging studies to determine whether arthritis is the cause of your symptoms to identify the disease’s location and severity.

Diagnostic studies may include X-rays, MRI, or CT scan. If your specialist suspects RA, they may also request blood tests to measure the level of inflammation in your body and other factors that can indicate RA.

During your initial evaluation, you can also expect a careful review of your physical health and a detailed review of your symptoms. Your specialist will ask about when the discomfort started, activities that seem to worsen the pain, what if anything eases the pain, etc.

Treating arthritis

Effective treatment for arthritis varies and may include:

  • Weight loss to ease the strain on your joints
  • Exercise to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, which helps protect your joints
  • Guided physical therapy/rehabilitation
  • Oral medication to reduce inflammation
  • Joint injections to treat inflammation and block pain signals
  • Modifying activities that stress and strain your joints, i.e., switching from running to cycling

At PISA, we work closely with you to design customized treatment strategies that address your pain and improve your overall quality of life.

For outstanding medical care that can relieve your pain and get you moving again while preserving your joint health, schedule a visit at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona today.