A joint is where two bones meet, connecting our bones together and providing mobility for our skeleton to move. Any damage to the joint caused either by an injury or disease can also cause damage to its surrounding cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bones, often leading pain and immobility.
Joint pain is actually pretty common, and there are actually many different conditions that lead to joint pain. Some of the most common are the various forms rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, bursitis, sprains, strain, gout, and of course, injuries. Knee pain is actually the most common joint pain problem, followed by shoulder pain and hip pain. As we age, joint pain can become more common.
Pain can range from mild and tolerable to debilitating. It may come and go for a few weeks (acute) or may last for months (chronic).
Joint Pain Symptoms
Symptoms associated with joint pain usually include redness and swelling of the joint, tenderness and a feeling of warmth in the affected area, limping, stiffness, immobility of the join, locking of joint, and/or weakness.
Possible Causes of Joint Pain
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain, namely rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Other possible causes include:
- Sprains and strains
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Bone infection
- Common colds and influenza
- Dislocation and fracture (these conditions require urgent medical attention)
Possible Treatment and Medications for Joint Pain
Whether joint pain is caused by infection, underlying condition or disease, most can be managed through alternative treatments, medications and physical therapy.
After the diagnosis (usually through physical examination and a series of tests), physicians will map out the treatment plan for managing the pain and reducing the inflammation of the joint to preserve its functionality.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are usually prescribed by doctors for pain relief of moderate to severe pain. For milder pain that is not accompanied by swelling, doctors will recommend acetaminophen. Be careful not to mix these medications with alcohol though, as they can cause nasty side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding or liver damage, especially when taken in high dosages.
Doctors may also prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and antiepileptic drugs. For severe pain, doctors will recommend opioid medication, which is stronger.
A topical agent such as capsaicin is also used to relieve joint pain. For patients who don’t feel relieved by topical and/or oral medications, doctors may prescribe injection medications, either steroid medication (can be combined with anesthetic) straight to the vein for every 3 to 4 months, injections to remove joint fluid, or hyaluronan injection (synthetic joint fluid).
Doctors also often recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles which surround the joint to help provide stability and improve the joint’s range of motion. Most physical therapists also use heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, manipulation and electrical nerve stimulation.
Patients are also advised to do low impact exercises such as biking and swimming, especially for overweight patients. Excess body weight can place unnecessary stress on the joints, so in some cases, patients may be advised to follow a lower calorie diet to help reduce the pressure on the joints.