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joint pains,muscle pain,causes of joint pain

Your comprehensive guide to joint pains and their treatment

What are joints?

Joints are the parts of our body where two bones meet. They facilitate the movement of bones in our skeleton. There are four main types of joints:

  • Knee Joint: The knee joint forms where the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (large shin bone) meet on both legs.
  • Hip Joint: This ball-and-socket synovial joint forms where the pelvic acetabulum or hip bone meets the head of the femur. It is designed for stability and for supporting the weight of the upper body.
  • Shoulder Joint: This is also a ball-and-socket joint where the head of the humerus fits into the socket of the scapula.
  • Elbow Joint: This a synovial hinge joint made by the distal end of the humerus bone and the proximal ends of the ulna and radius in the forearm.

What are joint pains?

Joint pains are discomfort, aches, or soreness in any of the four joints in the body that can range from mild to disabling. These pains may arise due to old age, injury, or an underlying condition such as arthritis.

Joint pains are also sometimes due to exertion of your limbs and multiple other causes. You do not necessarily require a visit to the doctor unless the pain is hampering daily activities.

What leads to joint pains?

Joint pains have a varied level of seriousness and based on the reasons they might require you to act in different ways. There are almost 15 different joint pain causes. Here, we outline a few:

  • Arthritis: There are two forms of arthritis that might impact your joint pain – Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
    • Osteoarthritis (OA) breaks down the cartilage around joints that acts as a shock absorber for joints creating hindrance of movement. It impacts joints that are used on a regular basis, such as hands, wrists, knees, and hips. It generally is seen in individuals above the age of 40.
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is more commonly found in men than in women. It gradually wears and deforms the joints causing inflammation, pain, and fluid retention. In this case, the body’s immune system attacks the lining membrane of the joints.
  • Bursitis: Commonly seen in the major joints, bursitis causes the fluid-filled sacs near the joints (also known as bursae) to get inflamed.
  • Lupus: This is an inflammatory disease when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. The joints are often a commonly affected area.
  • Chondromalacia Patella: This is a term used for the damage of the cartilage under the kneecap.
  • Tendinitis: This is the irritation of the tendons or thick fibrous tissues that attached the bone to the muscle.
  • Fibromyalgia: This is a condition where widespread muscle pain and tenderness are often accompanied by fatigue as well as sleep, and mood issues.
  • Osteoporosis: A condition that leads to weakening of bones which cause them to get susceptible to breaking and damage.

Joint pains can also happen because of injury, overuse of the joints, infectious diseases like mumps and flu, cancer, and infections.

What are the symptoms of joint pain?

Joint pains do not always require medical attention. But if you are going through any of the below symptoms and you are unsure about why you are experiencing the same, you must visit a doctor:

  • Your joint and the area around it is swollen, red, tender or warm to touch,
  • Your pain has continued for more than 3 days, and
  • You have a fever but no other symptoms of the flu.

You must also visit the hospital’s emergency room if you have:

  • Suffered a serious injury,
  • Deformed joints,
  • Swelled joints,
  • Joints that are completely immobile, or
  • Severe joint pain.

How is joint pain diagnosed?

When you go to your doctor, he will most likely perform a physical exam to understand and diagnose your condition. If the injury is serious, he might even order an X-Ray to understand the root cause of your joint pain. In fact, this is by far the most common way to diagnose arthritis-related damage.

If your doctor suspects the root cause of your joint pain as something more severe, he can request a blood test to determine the same. This could be for autoimmune diseases, influenza, or any other viral ailments.

Your doctor may ask for a sedimentation rate test to understand the extent of your inflammation as well as a full blood count.

What is the treatment for joint pains?

Depending on the nature of the joint pain, treatment can range from home remedies to medical treatment.

In the case of home treatment, one can implement them in case of both varieties of arthritis – both OA and RA. The following methods are very impactful: 

  • Regular Exercise: Keeping your joints active helps them slow down the damage. However, a very intense routine is not recommended, as it can cause further inflammation and discomfort.
  • Change in Diet: A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, mostly found in fish oil, can reduce joint stiffness and relieve joint pain.
  • Maintain Your Weight: A lower body weight would ensure that your joints are not under significant duress. So, it is often suggested that you lose weight to maintain it at your recommended level.
  • Hot and Cold Therapy: A hot bath in the morning helps relieve stiffness in your joints while a cold gel compress helps with the joint pain, especially in case of arthritis.

If your condition is significantly more serious, your doctor might ask you to undergo surgery to ease joint pains and other related issues. They might also need to draw out excess fluid, especially in the case of gout or infections.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the doctor is most likely to prescribe joint pain medication and lifestyle changes. Thereafter, they might suggest other methods to keep a check on your inflammation and prevent it from getting out of control.

Concluding thoughts

Joint pain is a natural result of wear and tear in our joints. While, in most cases, it is not terribly crippling, some individuals might face significant trouble in these situations. If your joint pain is making your movements difficult, you must visit your doctor and understand their diagnosis to maintain good health.

Author: Dr Debashish Chanda
An experienced Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Debashish Chanda specialised in robotic knee and hip surgeries from Germany. He brings with him over 14 years of experience in treating a wide range of orthopedic ailments with a focus on knee surgery.