When the joint is jumping but your joints won't, you may have the first signs of arthritis. According to Canada's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, one in seven persons has some form of arthritis.

And it can happen at any age. While we expect it to be primarily a senior condition, some forms of arthritis strike toddlers who are still teething, while other forms strike those in the prime of their life. And women are more likely to get it than men: Arthritis is the most prevalent chronic condition affecting women.

Arthritis (arth, Greek for joint, and itis, Greek for inflammation) consists of more than 100 different conditions, from gout to rheumatoid arthritis. Although most of these disorders occur with joint or muscle inflammation, many, like lupus, involve the skin, lungs and kidneys. Inflammation, swelling and pain are hallmarks of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, better known as wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common form of the condition, with rheumatoid arthritis following close behind.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system produces antibodies that destroy joint tissue. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, correcting the immune system abnormality is paramount.

Causes of Arthritis
Ten years ago, rheumatologists—medical scientists specializing in diseases characterized by inflammation or pain in muscles, joints or fibrous tissues—disagreed on the factors that cause arthritis. New research shows there are many different causes, including stress and its ability to disrupt hormones, inflammation, allergies, lack of exercise, obesity, heredity, nutritional deficiencies, a hyperactive immune system and even viral or bacterial infections.

The Immune System and Pain
Until recently, few scientists realized that the immune system can be responsible for causing inflammation and pain. Yet upon injury to the body or in conditions like arthritis, several immune factors, or interleukins, send signals to the brain that cause us to feel inflammation and pain.

These interleukins include: IL-1, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-12. Carl Germano and William Cabot, in their book Nature's Pain Killers (Kensington Books, NY), state that "IL-1 is directly responsible for breaking down collagen and other connective tissue, increasing prostaglandin production and dilating blood vessels—all actions that cause pain. IL-6 is a powerful proinflammatory factor that contributes to the symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis." The following is a sampling of nutrients researched for the treatment of arthritis. For dosages, consult your health care provider.

Lorna Vanderhaeghe, co-author of the award-winning book, The Immune System Cure (Prentice Hall, Canada), is a health journalist specializing in the subject of nutritional medicine.