Dr. Linette Williamson - Joint Pain in Oceanside
What to Know About Joint Pain
Joints are the parts of your body where your bones connect. Joints allow the bones of your skeleton to move. Joints consist of:
Joint pain refers to discomfort, aches, and soreness in any of the body's joints. Joint pain is a typical complaint. It doesn't usually require a hospital visit. Sometimes, joint pain is the product of an illness or injury. Arthritis is also a frequent cause of joint pain. However, it can also result from other conditions or factors.
What Causes Joint Pain?
Among the most common sources of joint pain is arthritis. The two main forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
According to the American College of Rheumatology, OA is most common in adults over age 40. It progresses slowly and has a tendency to affect frequently used joints like the:
Joint pain caused by OA results from a breakdown of the cartilage that functions as a cushion and shock absorber for the joints.
The second type of arthritis is RA. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA impacts approximately 1.5 million Americans. It more commonly affects women than males.
It can deform and debilitate the joints gradually. RA causes pain, inflammation, and fluid accumulation in the joints as the body's immune system attacks the membrane that lines the joints.
Joint pain can be caused by:
- Bursitis, or inflammation of the cushioning pads around joints
- Certain infectious diseases, such as mumps, flu, and hepatitis
- Chondromalacia of the patella, or a breakdown of the cartilage in the kneecap
- An injury
- Tendinitis, or inflammation of the tendon
- An infection of the bone or joint
- Overuse of a joint
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 unusual symptoms.
You should also see a physician if:
- The area around the joint is inflamed, red, tender, or warm to the touch
- The pain continues for three days or more
- You have a fever but no other symptoms of the flu
Visit the emergency room if any of the following happens:
- You've experienced a severe injury
- The joint appears deformed
- Swelling of the joint occurs all of a sudden
- The joint is fully immobile
- You have extreme joint pain
How is Joint Pain Diagnosed?
Your physician will probably conduct a physical examination. They'll also ask you a series of questions regarding your joint pain. This may help to narrow the potential causes.
A joint X-ray may be required to determine arthritis-related joint damage.
If your physician thinks there's another cause, they might request a blood test to screen for certain autoimmune disorders. They might also request a sedimentation rate test to determine the level of inflammation in the body or a complete blood count.
How is Joint Pain Treated?
Physicians consider both OA and RA to be chronic conditions. There's no treatment presently available that will completely eliminate the joint pain associated with arthritis or prevent it from returning. However, there are ways to manage the pain:
- It might help to use topical pain relievers or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to minimize pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Remain physically active and adopt a fitness program involving moderate exercise.
- Stretch before exercising to keep a good range of motion in your joints.
- Maintain your body weight within a healthy range. This will lessen stress on the joints.
If your pain isn't caused by arthritis, you can try taking a nonprescription, anti-inflammatory drug, getting a massage, taking a warm bath, stretching regularly, and getting sufficient rest.
Your treatment options will depend on the cause of the pain. In some cases, your doctor will need to draw out built up fluid in the joint area to test for infection or gout or other causes of the joint pain. They may even suggest surgery to replace the joint.
Other nonsurgical treatment strategies may include lifestyle changes or medications that can possibly make your RA enter remission. In the case of RA, your physician will first address inflammation. When the RA goes into remission, your medical treatment will concentrate on keeping a tight rein on your condition so that you avoid flare-ups.
What Is the Outlook for Individuals with Joint Pain?
Joint pain is usually a result of the damage that develops through normal wear and tear. However, it can also be a sign of an infection or potentially debilitating RA.
You should see your physician if you have any unusual joint pain, particularly if it does not go away on its own after a few days. Early detection and diagnosis can allow for effective treatment of the underlying source of your pain.