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What Is Bone Inflammation?

A representation of inflammation in the neck and lower back.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone.
Athletes are at a high risk for developing periostitis.
A healthy hip and one from a person with bone inflammation from osteoarthritis.
Article Details
  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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Bone inflammation, also known as osteitis, is a condition that causes bone to become thickened or swollen. This increase in mass may result in bone distortion, such as bowing or arching of a straight long bone. When the bone begins to change shape, it can also produce pain by altering weight bearing positions or increasing pressure against other internal structures of the body.

To understand osteitis, it is important to understand the roles of inflammation and pain in the healing process. Inflammation is the body's natural response to fight off anything that compromises homeostasis, or internal balance. Swelling protects an area and calls on more blood to travel there to initiate the healing process. The accompanying pain symptoms are the body’s warning system. Pain is also a protective mechanism to hinder excessive movements which may cause further injury.

When bone sustains an injury that disrupts normal function, such as a fracture, it increases the risk of infection. The body, in turn, may cause inflammation to help rid itself of invading contaminants. Osteomyelitis, for example, is a bone infection that causes inflammation. This infection travels through the blood to the inside of the bone and affects the marrow. The marrow, which consists of vascular tissue, is located in the middle of the bone and is responsible for creating new blood cells.

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Periostitis occurs when the protective bone covering or periosteum is involved in the inflammatory process. This condition can occur with an infection process, or it may be triggered by excessive external pressure created by the surrounding muscles.

When there is damage to the joints that connect bones, as with arthritis conditions, bone inflammation and pain issues can occur. The arthritis common as part of the aging process is called osteoarthritis and affects the entire bone. It can cause destruction of the bone or produce abnormal ridges or projections. Osteoarthritis may also be activated by certain diseases.

Bones constantly regenerate by a process called bone remodeling. Paget’s disease, which may also lead to osteoarthritis, is a health condition that disturbs normal bone remodeling. This can cause bones to form irregularly resulting in deformity, a loss of overall bone strength and inflammation.

Successful treatment of inflammation depends on treating the cause. If it is produced by an infection, symptoms will continue until the infection is eliminated. With health conditions that cause permanent damage to the joints or bones, a comprehensive exercise and strengthening program may help alleviate painful symptoms and may also aid in the restoration of range of motion. In severe cases, surgical correction of the bone may be necessary.

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