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What Is Muscular Arthritis?

author image Anna Aronson
Anna Aronson began working as a journalist in 2000 and spent six years at suburban Chicago newspapers before pursuing freelance work. She enjoys writing about health care topics, in particular obstetrics, pediatrics and nutrition. She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and is now studying for a Master of Science in medicine degree to become a physician's assistant.

Arthritis is a well-known condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. However, another type of arthritis, called muscular arthritis, also causes pain in inflammation, but this time in the muscle of the body. The condition, also called myositis and muscle arthritis, is rare, affecting only about 50,000 Americans, reports Johns Hopkins University.

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The symptoms of muscular arthritis develop because of inflammation in the muscles and often affect movement. Common symptoms include difficulty walking up a flight or stairs, trouble lifting the arms, trouble standing up from a sitting position, difficulty breathing or swallowing or fatigue after standing or walking. Many of these symptoms may also indicate another medical condition and should be reported to your doctor.


Myositis includes four types of disease: dermatomyositis, polymyositis, inclusion-body myositis and juvenile myositis. Dermatomyositis causes a skin rash in conjunction with the muscle pain and weakness, while polymyositis develops gradually and typically causes pain in the muscles closest to the trunk of the body. With inclusion-body myositis, sufferers typically are older than 50 and notice symptoms that develop over a period of months or years. Juvenile myositis includes all cases of muscular arthritis that develop in people younger than 18. Cases are rare, affecting only between 3,000 and 5,000 children.


The cause of any of the forms of muscular arthritis remain unknown. It often develops in conjunction with inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the joints, skin and internal organs. People who suffer from other rheumatic disorders, such as lupus, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis also may be more likely to develop myositis. In general, women develop the condition more often than men. Most cases are reported in people between the ages of 30 and 50.


Your doctor may suspect you have muscular arthritis after performing a physical exam and listening to a list of your complaints and symptoms. In these cases, he may order one or several tests to confirm the diagnosis. Simple blood tests can determine whether muscle enzyme levels excess normal levels. Other diagnostic tests include electromyography, a muscle biopsy, a spinal tap and imaging exams such as an MRI.


No cure exists for myositis. To help treat the condition, your doctor will likely prescribe drugs for you to take and suggest changes to your lifestyle to help alleviate symptoms. Drug treatment typically includes oral steroids as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, to help control inflammation. Lifestyle changes include engaging in stretching exercises and possibly in physical therapy to help with range-of-motion and mobility issues. It's also important for myositis patients to get plenty of rest, reduce the amount of stress in their lives and eat a healthful diet.


Most people with muscular arthritis respond well to medical treatment and get relief from the bothersome symptoms of the condition. Some people experience only one bout with the condition and stop taking medications after a period of several months. Others, though, may continually suffer from symptoms or have periodic bouts of myositis.

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