It's a good thing you're reading this post if you have joint pain as it will cover all you need to know about joint pain and how to effectively manage and treat it. Whatever the reason for your joint pain may be, physical therapy, medication, or in the worst situations, surgery can help relieve it.
So what causes joint pain? Why do joints hurt then? Well, several things like infection, disease, inflammation, etc. are the main causes. We will talk in-depth about these causes further in this article. Along with discussing the causes of joint pain, this article will also go over the definition of a joint, its parts, its symptoms, and ways to treat and manage joint pain. Please take a seat and continue reading this article.
What is a joint?
A joint is a point where two or more bones come together and enable the movement of the skeletal system. The bone can move fully or partially through the joint. The risk of damage increases as a joint's range of motion increases.
There are three types of joints namely: fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial joints.
- Fibrous Joints
The fibrous joint is an inflexible joint that does not permit motion. Bones are connected by fibrous tissues in the joint. The fibrous joint can be found in the hip, the joint that connects the teeth to their sockets, the joints in the lower leg, and the cranium of the skull.
- Cartilaginous Joints
The cartilage (headline or fibrocartilage) holding the two bones together enables these types of joints to move slightly. In comparison to fibrous joints, it permits more movement. The spine and the pubic symphysis are two places where cartilaginous joints can be found.1, 2
- Synovial Joints
The synovial joints are easily movable, allowing the connecting bone to move without restriction. The cavity of the synovial joint houses the synovial fluid, also known as synovia, which is secreted by the synovial membrane The synovial fluid lubricates the bones, allowing them to move freely and without any hindrance.
What is joint pain?
Pain and inflammation are always associated with joint pain. Pain is brought on by joint inflammation, which can affect any of the joint structures like the bone, tendon, cartilage, muscles, or ligaments. Mobility and exercise are restricted by this pain. You've probably seen that older people around you often have joint pain. Yet, did you know that joint pain can be avoided as you age? Making certain lifestyle adjustments and exercising frequently will help you achieve that.
Both intense exercise and prolonged periods of inactivity can make joint pain worse. The elbows, arms, hips, spine, or shoulders are common areas to experience persistent or chronic pain.
Symptoms of joint pain
Symptoms of joint pain vary from person to person, some people might feel mild pain while others might feel severe pain and swelling. Symptoms that are commonly associated with joint pain include
- Stiffness of the joint
- Loss of motion
- Redness and warmth in and around the joint
- Swelling of the joint
- Mild or severe pain with unusual movement in the joint
Causes of joint pain
Many factors could be responsible for joint pain and it could be a result of arthritis most of the time or any injury. Below are some of the causes of joint pain:
This is the swelling or irritation of the joint caused due to the inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled structure that provides cushion to your muscles, tendons, bones, and joints. Bursitis commonly affects the knee, shoulder, elbow, or Achilles tendon
Tendinitis is a result of overuse of the tendon. When the pressure becomes too much for the tendon, a structure that joins muscles to bones, they become inflamed or swollen in some cases. Tendinitis is caused by excessive stress on tendons caused due to sudden injury or by repetitive movements
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that happens as a result of the immune system attacking the healthy tissues causing inflammation of the joint and surrounding tissues. The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis could result in bone erosion and joint deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease common in the fingers and wrist
According to the arthritis foundation, osteoarthritis is one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis, it can affect any joint and it's common as people age. It's caused when the cartilage in the joint wears off causing two bones to glide against each other. The wearing down of the cartilage in the joint that causes osteoarthritis happens gradually. This condition causes severe bone pain, inflammation, knee pain, and stiffness
- Psoriatic arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects people with a particular skin condition called psoriasis.This condition is progressive and could get worse if not treated early. Psoriatic arthritis causes stiffness, inflammation, and severe pain in the joint leaving patches on the skin. Surgery may be required to help in reducing and preventing joint damage
This type of arthritis occurs when there is an excess production of uric acid, an acid created when the breakdown of a substance called purines. When the body finds it difficult to get rid of the excess uric acid, it causes inflammation or severe pain in the joint. According to the arthritis foundation, gout tends to affect men after they turn 40 years, older people, people who drink alcohol, and women after menopause
This could be in the shoulder, elbow, or knee. The pain may be a result of excessive pressure on these joints.
Infections occur due to the presence and growth of very small organisms like bacteria, viruses, or fungi in the joint. Lyme disease is one such infection caused by bacteria and spread by infected tick bites. These microorganisms get to the joint through the bloodstream from one area of the body to another causing fever, fatigue, inability to move the affected joint, severe pain, or swelling. Sometimes, an infection in one area of the body may result in reactive arthritis in another part of the body
Who is more likely to experience joint pain?
The following people are more likely to have joint pain:
- Anyone having any form of arthritis is susceptible to joint pain which could result in difficulty in using the affected joint
- Joint pain can be a problem for overweight people. Losing excess weight will assist in easing the pressure that the extra weight places on your joints
- Overuse of the joint during physical activities could result in wear and tear of the joint
- Aged people are also not left out, because of the years of extensive use of the joints which might have caused wear and tear of the joint
- Individuals who smoke or consume alcohol fall into this category as well because smoking causes harm to numerous organs in the body, preventing those organs from functioning properly
- Growing pains are harmless joint pains experienced by children of the growing age
How is joint pain treated?
Joint pain could be treated through the following methods explained below:
Your therapist might suggest exercises that help to strengthen and stretch your joint and at the same time put less stress on your joint. Exercise like swimming or yoga are physical activities that ease your joints and can help with recovery from pain
- Use of NSAIDs
The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also known as NSAIDs can help alleviate chronic pain temporarily. Sometimes, the dose you take might not be effective and you might require a stronger one. Before taking a stronger dose, you might need to consult your healthcare professional to certify you are okay to do so
- Weight loss
Shedding extra pounds does more good to your joint because it reduces the excessive pressure or strain put on your joint by excess weight
- Orthotic braces
This is a wedge worn and placed around the affected joint to relieve pressure on the joint and support it, lowering your risk of inflammation or severe pain. So if you have knee pain, elbow pain, or any other joint pain, you should consider wearing a brace to support the affected joint
- Quit smoking
Smoking damages cartilage in your joints. When you stop smoking, it stops further damage to vital organs in your body
- Steroid injection
This form of treatment or management involves injecting steroids into the affected joint to provide pain relief and reduce inflammation. Please note that excessive use of these steroids could harm or cause joint damage
- Antidepressant drug
This could be given to a person having chronic joint pain to help the person feel relieved and be able to sleep. This in turn helps the joint relax well and recover from wear and tear
What can be done to relieve joint pain?
Joint pain can be relieved by medications like anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and exercise and in severe cases, surgery may also be required. To restore the cushioning function of the worn-out cartilage, surgery on the joint may involve repairing or replacing the joint cartilage with an implant. This procedure can be performed on the shoulder, hip, or knee joint.
Treatment and home remedies
You can use a variety of treatments or at-home remedies to relieve pain and inflammation. You might be advised by your therapist to attempt the R.I.C.E. treatment approach. The four stages of this therapy plan are as follows:
- Rest- this is a home remedy that involves resting and staying away from exercise or any form of physical activity that could put pressure on the joints, but you can try less intensive activities like swimming
- Ice- after any physical, strenuous activity, or when you begin to feel chronic pain, you can apply a pack of ice on the affected joint. You can place the ice pack for 20 mins every 2 hours, or as needed
- Compression- use a soft brace or compressive surgical tape to wrap your joint to prevent swelling and relieve pressure on the joint
- Elevation- at night, you can place the affected joint on a soft elevated surface like a pillow to reduce inflammation overnight. You can do this for legs and arms at night
When to seek medical attention?
You should visit your healthcare professional(doctor) if you experience any joint pain symptoms. If the pain begins to hinder your mobility or you begin to experience growing pains, which are also accompanied by swelling, you should consult your healthcare professional.
Also, if you experience joint pain along with a fever, you should see your doctor for a thorough checkup.
There are three main types of joints, and each one serves a different purpose within the body. The cartilaginous joint and synovial allow movement, however, the fibrous joint prevents movement of the bones it is attached. When you have joint pain, you might occasionally have swelling and slight or growing pains; in certain situations, this may limit your mobility and the day's job.
Those who participate in sports, demanding physical activities, or who are elderly may have joint pain from overusing their joints. Moreover, arthritis has a role in other physical issues such as chronic joint pain.
If your joint pain is mild, you should start by trying a home remedy. If you want to relieve pain, inflammation, or joint stress, consider the R.I.C.E. approach. Please see a medical practitioner for an accurate diagnosis of your pain if you have growing pains.
- Becker I, Woodley SJ, Stringer MD. The adult human pubic symphysis: a systematic review. J Anat [Internet]. 2010 Nov [cited 2023 Feb 17];217(5):475–87. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035856/
- Seidman AJ, Limaiem F. Synovial fluid analysis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 17]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537114/