The prevailing model of joint degeneration based on age-related, genetic, and familial factors implies inevitable progression and limited palliation from manual therapy. This model is presented to primary care physicians and the public on Web sites and in resource texts and is implicit in many published research articles. The author presents a synthesized model of the progression of osteoarthritis, combining radiographic, histologic, and clinical evidence. The revised model suggests that the progression of primary osteoarthritis is divided into an initial reversible arthrosis phase and a later arthritis phase, with both phases linked to accepted histologic and radiographic observations. The revised model also suggests a number of novel concepts, including the influence of dominance bias and laterality. The author concludes that a small change in understanding could translate into important changes in the therapeutic management of osteoarthritis, with implications for government public health policy.

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