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Q&A: Can I Inherit Arthritis From My Parents?

Dr. Arnan Sisson, PT/ June 6, 2022


Bad teeth, short height, chronic worry, and even wrinkles are things that people commonly love to blame parents for!


Another one though I’ve heard over the years is arthritis. I’ll have a patient that says some version of this… “My back is awful, it’s a genetic thing. My dad and his dad before him had really bad arthritis in their backs. It’s not much I can do.”


While there are some orthopedic conditions and even inflammatory ones like Rheumatoid arthritis that can be pretty inheritable. The question we need to answer today though is this, “is typical arthritis inherited from our parents?”


In my opinion I’d give a clear “no” to that question for two reasons.


This first reason why its not inherited is the mechanism of the condition. Arthritis is a ailment where you can have chronic low level stress or periods of high level stress that wears down the protective cartilage around the bone. This is created through trauma, which has to be developed through one’s life.


The second reason why its not an inherited condition is how arthritis can present. Most people that come into my physical therapy practice will have some sort of arthritis on their MRI’s, but in a matter of four to eight weeks we can get rid of the pain despite the imaging findings.


So, this means that the arthritis was probably there for years before the pain started, and it’ll still be there long after pain is gone and isn’t the ultimate cause of the pain.


Only very severe arthritis will cause pain itself, and in most cases of mild to moderate arthritis folks will have no pain from the arthritis itself and potentially just early morning stiffness.


Usually when I tell patients that arthritis isn’t genetic the first response will be a big huff of relief.  Knowing this information gives people hope that they can actually make themselves better.

This can be done through various treatments in the clinic paired with activity modifications we make for clients to take stress of the joint moving forward. That combination has gotten many of my clients off the pills, away from surgery, and enjoying an active life that they’ve missed for years.

That’s it for today everyone, remember movement is medicine!


P.S. Most folks that think their suffering with arthritis will get an MRI. If you have one planned, before you make the trip click here to check out my blog post on these MRI’s. It’s a quick read, but one that could save you a lot of anxiety and stress after you get your results.