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Why joint pain occurs: The A-Z of Joint Pain 

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Joint pain is a common complaint in older people. Surprisingly, there is also a rising prevalence of bone and joint pain in younger adults. Nearly 20-25% of the Indian population living with chronic pain is affected by musculoskeletal disorders involving the joints. The alarming incidence rate provokes a fairly common question – why joint pain occurs?

There are various answers to this question. In this article, Dr Debashish Chanda, a leading orthopaedic doctor at the CK Birla Hospital, will help us understand joint pain reason and its management.

Why joint pain happens?

Before we move forward to learn about the different joint pain reason, let us understand what is meant by joint pain? 

What are the joints?

Your joints are the connecting parts in your body where two bones meet. It is because of the anatomy of joints in the skeletal system that you are able to move your body. 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.

A discomfort, ache or soreness felt in a joint is called joint pain, medically known as arthralgia. Joint pain is mostly the result of an underlying health condition that stifles your range of movement. Your bone and joint pain may vary from mild to debilitating. Mostly, the severity of joint pain is characterised by your age. 

Joint pain causes

Joint pain can be caused as a result of an illness or injury to the joint. Sudden joint pain causes are mostly associated with injury or trauma. In other cases, a detailed investigation and diagnosis are required to find out the core cause of pain. 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.

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 some common joint pain causes include:

Arthritis: There are two forms of arthritis that might impact your joint pain – Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Sometimes arthritis is also a factor of sudden joint pain causes. The onset of arthritis can also affect in the form of acute pain

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 the 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 joint pain symptoms?

Joint pains do not always require medical attention. But if you are going through any of the below joint pain 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/she 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 joint pain treatment?

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

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

Regular Exercise: Keeping your joints active helps them slow down the damage. Regular exercise for joint pain is advised, however, a very intense routine is not recommended, as it can cause further inflammation and discomfort. Low impact physical activities such as yoga for joint pain can be done to help relieve symptoms. 

  • Change in Diet: A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, mostly found in fish oil, can reduce joint stiffness and relieve joint pain. Along with omega-3, you should intake a sufficient amount of vitamin D for joint pain. Vitamin D and vitamin B are among the two essential nutrients to help alleviate 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 help in stiffness and joint pain relief while a cold gel compress helps with 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.

The concluding note

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. We hope you may have gained a clearer understanding of why joint pain occurs. 

For more information or personalised guidance, book an appointment with Dr Debashish Chanda, a leading orthopaedic doctor at the CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon. 


Ques: When should I worry about joint pain?

Ans: If your joint pain is caused due to an injury or if it is hampering your daily activities, you should seek medical intervention immediately. 

Ques: What are the common causes of joint pain?

Ans: Common causes of joint pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, lupus, osteoporosis and injury. 

Ques: How can I relieve joint pain at home?

Ans: You can relieve joint pain at home by doing low impact exercises, hot and cold compressions and eating more fibre. 

Ques: Which vitamin deficiency can lead to joint pain?

Ans: A deficiency of vitamin D can cause joint pain and related problems. 

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