No longer just a common complaint with ageing, joint pains are now very common in young adults too. Causes vary from person to person, with lifestyle changes and physical inactivity atop the list. Joint pain can be described as any discomfort, soreness or aches in the body where two or more bones meet to form a joint. It can be medically termed as ‘arthralgia’. Joints in the body include knees, hips, shoulders and elbows.
A joint can be painful without being inflamed, or it can be both painful and inflamed. The pain can be anywhere in the range from mild to disabling and have varied causes which might or might not be due to underlying diseases.
SYMPTOMS OF JOINT PAIN
Joint Pains often occur along with other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying medical condition. Some symptoms of joint pains are directly related to the joint such as
- Joint noise such as clicking, popping or crackling
- Reduced mobility or complete inability to use the joint or limping
- Intense pain for 3 days or more
- Visible deformity of the joint
- Redness or swelling
- Tenderness or warmth around the joint
Other common symptoms of joint pains are not directly related to the same.
- Abdominal pain
- Aching muscles
- Scaly patches or rash on skin or dry skin
- Butterfly shaped rash on the bridge of nose
- Dry mouth
- Fever not associated with flu
- Flu like symptoms such as chills, sore-throat, headaches
- Yellow skin and eyes with dark urine output (jaundice)
Apart from these certain serious symptoms indicate life-threatening situations that require immediate medical attention,
- Bleeding from minor injuries
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitations
- Very high fever
- Muscle weakness
- Pain in several joints with rash
- Rapid, jerky movements
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained weight loss
CAUSES OF JOINT PAIN
There are many causes of joint pain. The possible causes partly depend on age. Joint pain can be due to fairly mild conditions, such as an overuse injury or sprain or due to traumatic injuries (dislocations), infections (septic arthritis), autoimmune diseases (sjogren’s syndrome), chronic degenerative conditions (arthritis) or malignancy (cancer). Certain causes of joint pains in adults, affect more than one joint while others affect only a single joint.
Causes of joint pains in adults that affect more than one joint can be:
- Osteoarthritis: Caused by the ‘wear and tear’ of the joint. This pain is noticeable in one joint and affects more joints as time goes on. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Painful and stiff joints worsening in the morning, Persistent inflammation damages affected joints in RA patients. The pain can vary from mild to severe.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: In patients who have a skin condition called psoriasis, inflammation, pain and swelling is caused.
- Reactive Arthritis: Infections elsewhere in the body affect the joints in this condition.
- Gout: causes attacks of painful inflammation in one or more joints. The pain of a gout attack can be severe.
- Bursitis: in this condition, inflammation is caused around the cushioning pads around joints.
- Fibromyalgia: along with tiredness and other symptoms, pains and tenderness are caused in many areas of the body.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: This affects the lower back but other joints too may be affected.
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Connective Tissue Disease: Tissues throughout the body including tendons, ligaments, skin, eyes, cartilage, bone and blood vessels are affected.
- Menopause in Females: a common experience for women going through the menopause are joint and/or muscle pains.
Cause of joint pains in adults that usually affect a single joint are:
- Joint, bone or soft tissue injury
- Problems of soft tissue which occur specifically in knee, elbow, shoulder and ankle
- Joint and bone infections
- Bone cancer or leukemia
- Paget’s disease of bone
Causes of Joint Pains in adults and children/teens vary significantly. Some of the causes of joint pains in young adults are:
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Occurs in children under the age of 16 where joint inflammation occurs.
- Osgood-Schlatter disease: this is a cause of knee pains and tenderness below the kneecap in sporty teenagers a cause of knee pain, particularly for sporty teenagers.
- Sinding-Larsen Johansson disease: a condition of the knee that affects teenagers during periods of rapid growth.
- Henoch-Schönlein Purpura: a cause of skin rash, abdominal pain and joint pain.
- Growing Pains: Leg pains that are common in growing children.
DIAGNOSIS OF JOINT PAIN
Joint Pains can be diagnosed with Physical Examination by a doctor. A few questions regarding the pain can help narrow down the causes. An X-ray for the joints may be required to identify arthritis-related joint damage. For the screening of autoimmune diseases, a blood test may be necessary. A sedimentation rate test to measure the level of inflammation in the body might be ordered for by the doctor.
TREATMENT OF JOINT PAIN
Many causes of joint pain resolve without treatment or with medicines to help relieve the pain until it resolves. For other causes, help from an ortho-doctor may be required
Certain home remedies can also be used for relief from joint pains:
- Weight management
- Low impact Exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming
- Hot and Cold Therapy
- Healthy Diet
- Herbal Supplement
While physical therapy can be helpful for some types of joint pain, doctor might suggest one of the following, if therapy doesn’t help the symptoms:
- Joint repair. Joint surfaces can be smoothened or realigned to reduce pain and improve function. This procedure can be performed arthroscopically — through small incisions over the joint.
- Joint replacement. This procedure removes the damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. Joints most commonly replaced are knees, hips and shoulders.
- Joint fusion. More often used for smaller joints, such as those in the wrist, ankle and fingers, this procedure removes the ends of the two bones in the joint and then locks the ends together until they heal into one rigid unit.
COMPLICATIONS OF JOINT PAIN
Once cause of the pain is diagnosed, the treatment plan outlined by the doctor and the medication must be followed to reduce the risk of potential complications related to joint pain, such as:
- Joint deformity
- Loss of mobility
- Permanent joint damage
- Permanent joint immobility
- Permanent joint instability
- Permanent loss of sensation
- Physical disability
- Spread of infection