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  • Writer's pictureBenign Evexía Center

Therapeutic Treatment For Joint Aches

Overview

Joints are the parts of your body where your bones meet. Joints allow the bones of your skeleton to move. Joints include:

  • shoulders

  • hips

  • elbows

  • knees

Joint pain refers to discomfort, aches, and soreness in any of the body’s joints. Joint pain is a common complaint. It doesn’t typically require a hospital visit.

Sometimes, joint pain is the result of an illness or injury. Arthritis is also a common cause of joint pain. However, it can also be due to other conditions or factors.

What causes joint pain?

Joint discomfort is common and usually felt in the hands, feet, hips, knees, or spine. Pain may be constant or it can come and go. Sometimes the joint can feel stiff, achy, or sore. Some patients complain of a burning, throbbing, or “grating” sensation. In addition, the joint may feel stiff in the morning but loosen up and feel better with movement and activity. However, too much activity could make the pain worse.

Joint pain may affect the function of the joint, and can limit a person’s ability to do basic tasks. Severe joint pain can affect the quality of life. Treatment should focus not only on pain but also on the affected activities and functions.

Who is more likely to experience joint pain?

Joint pain tends to affect those who:

  • Have had previous injuries to a joint

  • Repeatedly use and/or overuse a muscle

  • Have arthritis or other chronic medical conditions

  • Suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or stress

  • Are overweight

  • Suffer from poor health

Age is also a factor in stiff and painful joints. After years of use, and wear and tear on joints, problems may arise in middle-aged or older adults.

Arthritis

One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis. The two main forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

OA is most common in adults over age 40. It progresses slowly and tends to affect commonly used joints like the:

  • wrists

  • hands

  • hips

  • knees

Joint pain due to OA results from a breakdown of the cartilage that serves as a cushion and shock absorber for the joints.

The second form of arthritis is RA. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA affects about 1.5 million Humans of any given continent. It more commonly affects women than men.

It can deform and debilitate the joints over time. RA causes pain, inflammation, and fluid buildup in the joints as the body’s immune system attacks the membrane that lines the joints.

Other causes

Joint pain can be caused by:


The most common causes of chronic pain in joints are:

  • Osteoarthritis, a common type of arthritis, happens over time when the cartilage, the protective cushion in between the bones, wears away. The joints become painful and stiff. Osteoarthritis develops slowly and usually occurs during middle age.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes swelling and pain in the joints. Often the joints become deformed (usually occurring in the fingers and wrists).

  • Gout is a painful condition where crystals from the body collect in the joint, causing severe pain and swelling. This usually occurs in the big toe.

  • Bursitis is caused by overuse. It is usually found in the hip, knee, elbow, or shoulder.

  • Viral infections, rash, or fever may make joint movement painful.

  • Injuries, such as broken bones or sprains

  • Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons or the flexible bands that connect bone and muscle. It is typically seen in the elbow, heel, or shoulder and is usually caused by overuse.


What are the symptoms of joint pain?

In some cases, your joint pain will require you to see a doctor. You should make an appointment if you don’t know the cause of your joint pain and are experiencing other unexplained symptoms.

You should also see a doctor if:

  • the area around the joint is swollen, red, tender, or warm to the touch

  • the pain persists for three days or more

  • you have a fever but no other signs of the flu

Go to the emergency room if any of the following occurs:

  • You’ve experienced a serious injury.

  • The joint appears deformed.

  • Swelling of the joint occurs suddenly.

  • The joint is completely immobile.

  • You have severe joint pain.

How is joint pain diagnosed?

Your doctor will probably perform a physical exam. They’ll also ask you a series of questions about your joint pain. This may help to narrow down the potential causes.

A joint X-ray, CT Scan or MRI may be necessary to identify arthritis-related joint damage.

If there’s another cause that is suspected, they may order a blood test to screen for certain autoimmune disorders. They may also request a sedimentation rate test to measure the level of inflammation in the body or a complete blood count.

How is joint pain treated?

Home treatment

Doctors consider both OA and RA to be chronic conditions. There’s no treatment currently available that will completely eliminate the joint pain associated with arthritis or keep it from returning. However, there are ways to manage the pain:

  • It may help to use topical pain relievers or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.

  • Stay physically active and follow a fitness program focusing on moderate exercise.

  • Stretch before exercising to maintain a good range of motion in your joints.

  • Keep your body weight within a healthy range. This will lessen stress on the joints.

  • If your pain isn’t due to arthritis, you can try taking a nonprescription, anti-inflammatory drug, getting a massage, taking a warm bath, stretching frequently, and getting adequate rest.

Although there may not be a cure for the pain, it can be managed to bring the patient relief. Sometimes the pain may go away by taking over-the-counter medication, or by performing simple daily exercises. Other times, the pain may be signaling problems that can only be corrected with prescription medication or surgery.

  • Simple at-home treatments, such as applying a heating pad or ice on the affected area, may be recommended for short periods, several times a day. Soaking in a warm bathtub may also offer relief.

  • Exercise can help get back strength and function. Walking, swimming, or other low-impact aerobic exercise is best. Those who participate in strenuous workouts or sports activities may need to scale it back or begin a low-impact workout routine. Gentle stretching exercises will also help. Check with the doctor before beginning or continuing any exercise program.

  • Weight loss may also be suggested, if needed, to lessen the strain on joints.

  • Topical treatments, such as ointments or gels that can be rubbed into the skin over the affected joint area, may also help ease the pain.

  • Dietary supplements, like glucosamine, may help relieve pain. Ask the doctor before taking any over-the-counter supplements.

If those medications or treatments do not ease the pain, the doctor may prescribe:

  • Supportive aids, such as a brace, cane, or orthotic device in the shoe, can help support the joint to allow ease of movement. The doctor, physical or occupational therapist, or social worker will be able to assist with the right option(s) available.

  • Physical or Occupational Therapy, along with a balanced fitness program, may gradually help ease pain and improve flexibility.

  • Antidepressants may be prescribed to help improve sleep for a patient suffering from joint pain.

  • Steroids, often given by injection into the joint, provide short-term relief of pain and swelling.


Please note that medicine, even those available over the counter, affects people differently. What helps one person may not work for another. Be sure to follow the doctor’s directions carefully when taking any medicine, and tell him or her if you have any side effects.


What symptoms of joint pain are causes for concern?

Symptoms of joint pain range from mild to disabling. Without cartilage, bones rub directly against each other as the joint moves. Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling

  • Stiff or enlarged joint

  • Numbness

  • Noisy joints, or clicking, grinding, or snapping sounds when moving the joint

  • Painful movement

  • Difficulty bending or straightening the joint

  • Loss of motion

  • A red and hot and swollen joint (This should be evaluated quickly by a doctor)




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