Last Updated February 20th, 2019
What Is Joint Pain?
The skeletal system provides a framework and support system for soft tissues and internal organs. Although it is inherently rigid, it also offers a great deal of flexibility and mobility. This mobility is made possible by the joints. A joint is an interface between two or more bones supported by connective tissues like cartilage, ligaments, and tendons in order to facilitate a range of movements. Joints can be of different types such as hinge joints or ball-and-socket joints.
Like any other part of the body, your joints too are susceptible to injury and disease. When this happens, whether in the form of infection, inflammation, degenerative disease or trauma, you are likely to develop some amount of pain in the affected joint or joints. A single joint may be affected or more. Such joint pain is known as arthralgia. Illnesses like arthritis can cause pain in several joints at a time and this tends to be a chronic condition. However, if you are suffering from an infection, the pain may be localised and can be cured by treating the infection.
Why Am I Suffering From Joint Pain?
There can be a wide range of causes for pain in the joints.
Some possibilities include injury, infection, immune disorders, allergic reactions, degenerative diseases, endocrine disorders, nutritional deficiencies, hemorrhage, bleeding disorders, and surgical trauma.
Sometimes, such pain is an outcome of cancer.
The underlying problem may have to do with the bones themselves or with the connective tissues of the joints.
The problem may be localized, systemic or a whole body disease.One of the most common causes of pain in the joints is arthritis which involves inflammation and swelling of joints, making movement painful and limited. The term arthritis does not refer to a specific illness. Rather, it is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders of the joints that produce symptoms including inflammation and joint pain. The inflammation can have varied origins, whether as a result of infection, or autoimmunity.
Sometimes, bones may be injured as a result of fractures. Alternatively, the patient may have degeneration or death of bone tissue as a result of avascular necrosis. Bone cancer is another possibility. All of these conditions are known to produce joint pain.
Here is a list of potential causes for joint pain or arthralgia:
- Sprains and strains.
- Dislocation of the joint.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
- Inflammatory disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Infection such as Lyme disease.
- Damage to bones.
- Ankylosing spondylitis.
- Paget’s disease of bone.
- Complex regional pain syndrome.
- Meralgia paresthetica.
- Polymyalgia rheumatica.
- Psoriatic arthritis.
- Reactive arthritis.
- Postviral arthritis.
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
- Gonococcal arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Septic arthritis.
What Are The Symptoms?
Depending on the actual cause of the pain, the joint pain itself may be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms.
In fact, joint pain is actually a symptom of a deeper problem in the body and not a disease in itself.
Usually, patients complain of pain that makes it difficult to move the joint normally.
There may some amount of warmth in the affected joint, some swelling and stiffness as well. Some of the most commonly affected joints include the shoulders, hips, knees, wrists, ankles and those of the fingers.
What Are Some Potential Complications?
Pain in the joints and the accompanying joint stiffness makes it difficult to achieve the normal range of motion for that joint. This means that the person’s mobility may be affected, depending on which joint or joints are involved. Usually, when the hips and knees are affected, the patient finds it difficult to walk or bend or sit comfortably. Similarly, when the fingers are affected, it is not easy to flex them and perform fine motor tasks as one might normally do.
When the pain is severe, the patient may not be able to move the joint/s or the associated limb/s at all. This can make it difficult to perform normal everyday tasks and it may have a detrimental impact on the patient’s social life and professional life. Depending on the cause of the pain, the patient may even be left with a permanent deformity in the joint.
How Is Joint Pain Diagnosed And Treated?
If you feel you are suffering from painful joints, you should visit a doctor to find out the nature of the problem and how to treat it.
Your doctor will likely begin with a physical examination and ask you about your medical history.
For instance, if you have recently recovered from a bout of dengue fever, this may explain why you are suffering from joint pain. In other words, it may be a case of postviral arthralgia.
By assessing your combination of symptoms, the doctor may be able to narrow down the list of possible ailments.If you are displaying signs of infection such as fever, then you will also be asked to take a blood test so that the pathogen can be identified.
In such cases, patients may need to be treated with antibiotics or antiviral drugs. Medications can also help to ease the pain, swelling, and inflammation. Until their condition improves, the patient may also need an aid like a walker to help them remain mobile and active.
In some cases, particularly where degeneration of the joints is observed, the doctor may advise surgery for joint replacement. Some of the most common procedures under this category include hip and knee replacement surgeries. Following this, patients will be advised to embark on physiotherapy to help regain joint function and mobility.
Treatment & Prevention
Joint pain caused by arthritis can be treated only if the joint inflammation is caused by an infection. In all the other cases, joint pain is mostly managed by a combination of proper rest, exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits. Medication and vitamin supplements can also help. Muscle relaxants and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can provide temporary relief from the pain and muscular stiffness. Physiotherapy has shown great results in tackling the issue of joint pains. Acupuncture, yoga, exercises, massage, hydrotherapy, and cryotherapy (ice-packs) will help in relieving painful symptoms.
Controlling weight and having a healthy diet can go a long way in preventing joint aches, especially in old age. Regular walking, swimming, aerobics etc will help strengthen the muscle surrounding the bones and joints, keeping joint aches away.
Having pain in the joints is a very common problem. It is particularly common among older adults and manifests as a result of age-related degeneration. As we have seen, there can be a variety of causes for joint pain. So, if you are suffering from joint pain, it is best to obtain a professional medical opinion as to the cause of the problem and the best way to treat it.
- Gout is largely responsible for causing arthritis which leads to joint aches.
- Changes in barometric pressure can cause an increase in the joint pains. This usually happens when it is cold or raining.
- Joint pains can sometimes be genetically inherited.
- Roughly 42 million Americans report that pain is responsible for disturbed sleep for more than 1 night every week.
- Arthritis affects 1 out of every 5 adults worldwide. This comes out to be 50 million adults.
- Joint aches and arthritis are causing a loss of $156 billion dollars in medical expenses and lost wages yearly.
- Arthritis has shown high co-morbidities with many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiac diseases.
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Dos and Don'ts
- Complete rest can cause more harm to the joints than good. It is important to incorporate movement and exercises into your daily routine. Swimming, cycling, and yoga are great for people suffering from joint pains (low-impact exercises).
- Try to shed a few pounds of weight. It will decrease the pressure on your joints, especially knees and ankles.
- Make regular visits to your chiropractor or functional movement specialist to analyze the improvements in your condition.
- Continue smoking as nicotine leads to poor degeneration of connective issues worsening joint aches.
- Sleep on too-soft mattresses as they tend to spoil the alignment of the spine.
- Use heat pad in case of inflammation. Use cold packs to treat such symptoms.
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