Arthritis Pain and Joint Pain

Also known as Joint Stiffness, Arthralgia, Joint Aches, Arthropathy, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Osteoarthritis (OA), Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), Synovitis, Bursitis, Impingement Syndrome of the Shoulder, Joint Impingement, Torn Rotator Cuff, Capsulitis)

Definition: Pain and loss of function in and around the joint area.

Joint Pain Relief

Overview: Joints are complex anatomical structures consisting of two bones, which are usually separated by a very smooth surface called cartilage and wrapped tightly in a joint capsule which is comprised of a mixture of tough tissues called ligaments and the tendons of muscles that move the joints. Joints are responsible for our ability to move, stand, sit, walk, bend, and twist. Joints are located throughout the body including the temporal mandibular joints, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, toes, and the spinal column. The sacroiliac joints connect the pelvis with the base of the spine. The joint space is filled with a clear fluid called synovial fluid, which nourishes the cartilage. The inner layer of the joint capsule is called the bursa. The synovial fluid is produced inside the joint by very vascular tissue surrounding the joint inside the joint capsule called the synovium.

Joint Pain Causes

Painful joints can be caused by injury or abnormality of any of these joint structures. Usually, these abnormalities result in pain, swelling, stiffness, and significant loss of function of the joint. Inflammation of the bursa or tendons may result in bursitis or tendonitis causing severe joint pain, swelling, and pain with movement. Bursitis and tendonitis is usually caused by excessive movement of the joint. With sudden force or hyperextension, the ligaments or tendons of a joint may be partially or fully torn called a sprain. With age or excessive wear, the delicate cartilage of the joints may be worn down or damaged, which is called degenerative joint disease of osteoarthritis. Some metabolic conditions such as gout result in arthritis, swelling and pain of some of the joints, especially of the hands, ankles, and feet. Joints may become infected in many infectious diseases such as gonorrhea. Many autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus result in severe damage to the joints. Pain in the joint is also a feature of joint inflammation, infection, as well as tumors in the joint. Rarely, joint pain may be a result of cancer of the bones or muscles around the joints. Joint pain and loss of function may be so severe that a person’s activity level may be severely reduced, even to the point of being wheel-chair bound or bedridden.

Joint Pain Symptoms

  • Pain in or around the joint
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Joint stiffness
  • Reduced joint range-of-motion
  • Hot joints
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding of the joint with movement
  • Fevers and chills (if infection is involved)

    Joint Pain Treatment

    Many cases of bursitis or tendonitis may resolve with rest or a brief course of anti-inflammatory medications and topical heat. Sometimes, physical therapy is needed. For severe pain, oral steroids may be needed. Occasionally, the physician may recommend injecting the involved joint with steroids. Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis may require very aggressive treatment with a specialist called a rheumatologist. Surgery may be required for severe tendon or ligament tears such as rotator cuff tears in the shoulders or meniscal tears in the knees. Some diseases, such as osteoarthritis, have no cure at all and very few treatments to help relieve the pain or improve function. In these conditions, the pain and loss of function may become chronic resulting in severe disability.

    The standard treatments for severe or chronic joint pain are over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription narcotic and non-narcotic medication, rest, physical therapy, and steroid injections. As most patients who suffer with this type of pain soon realize, these treatments are usually not sufficient and many, especially the oral medications, are associated with serious side effects such as sedation, nausea, constipation, and even addiction. Extended use of some over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen may even result in stomach ulcers, kidney failure, heart failure, and liver failure. Many joint pain sufferers often search for alternative solutions to the usual over-the-counter and prescription medications.

    Sudden severe pain, especially in the chest, arms, or head, pain associated with fever, numbness or weakness, or pain in any area of the body that does not resolve after a couple of weeks, should always be evaluated by a physician to be certain that other medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, infections, or even cancer is not the underlying cause of pain.

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