FAQs on Joint Pain – Ankle, Shoulder, Hip, and Knee
Joint pain is caused by a disease or injury to the joint, surrounding structures, and/or adjacent tissues. A typical joint is composed of bones separated by cartilage, which serves as a cushioning pad. Ligaments hold the bones together. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that gives the joint ability to move. Joint pain, also called arthralgia, can occur when there is problems with any of these structures.
What are some common causes of joint pain?
Joint pain an occur due to:
- Worsening of osteoarthritis – When joint pain steadily gets worse, it is a sign that osteoarthritis has progressed. This is usually accompanied by stiffness, damage to protective bone surfaces, and swelling in and around the joint.
- Joint lining inflammation – With many arthritis conditions, the joint lining becomes inflamed. With traumatic synovitis, an injured joint develops inflammation of the thin layer of tissue lining the tendons and joints.
- Gout – A buildup of uric acid can lead to a painful, stiff joint. When the kidneys do not excrete uric acid properly, or too much is produced due to excessive alcohol use, gout develops.
- Chondromalacia patellae – This is a condition characterized by knee pain worsened with going up or down stairs.
- Hemarthrosis – A torn ligament or knee fracture can cause bleeding into the joint, which produces a painful joint.
What symptoms are associated with joint pain?
Joint pain is often accompanied by swelling, warmth of the joint, redness of the skin, stiffness, and immobility. A painful joint can also cause a low-grade fever and flu-like symptoms.
Who gets joint pain?
Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joint pain is more common in persons ages 65 years and older, with a prevalence rate of 49.7% for arthritis. While younger people also have arthritis, it occurs at lower rates, with 7.3% prevalence among persons ages 18-44 years, and 30% rate for those 45-64 years of age. Joint pain and arthritis affect women slightly more than men.
How is joint pain treated?
Depending on the underlying cause, the treatment options include:
- Medications – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to control pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen. For muscle spasms, certain muscle relaxants are beneficial, like Robaxin and Baclofen. Topical agents are useful for some patients, such as capsaicin and methyl salicylate. These agents block substance P, which transmits pain signals.
- Joint injections – For certain types of arthritis, a joint injection can be helpful. Corticosteroid medications are injected to provide long-term anti-inflammatory relief, and hyaluronan is a synthetic version of joint fluid that provides lubrication to the joint. According to clinical studies, joint injections improve functionality for 3-6 months.
- Arthrocentesis – This procedure is useful for providing relief of pain related to fluid buildup. Removal of fluid can alleviate pain, improve mobility, and decrease swelling.
- Physical therapy – To strengthen muscles around the joint, improve range of motion, and provide stability, the therapist works with the patient for 2-3 times a week. Water therapy is often used to alleviate weight-bearing issues during therapy.
- Acupuncture – This traditional Chinese treatment modalities involves insertion of tiny needles into the skin. This manipulates acupoints, which promotes the body’s self-healing capabilities and restores energy flow. A recent research study showed acupuncture to be a cost-effective treatment for chronic knee pain.
- Bracing – For joint pain related to arthritis, the doctor may recommend a corrective brace. The brace will apply force, assist with normal alignment, and let weight be distributed away from the damaged knee area.