In general, any discomfort, pain, or inflammation from any part of the joint (ligaments, tendons, bone, and muscles) is referred to as joint pain.
In most cases however, joint pain is the term used for arthritis or arthralgia—the condition characterized by inflammation or pain within the joint itself.
While in most cases pain caused by the condition is mild (where soreness is only often noticeable after an activity), in other instances, it can be severe.
When pain is severe, even the most limited of movement (i.e. bearing weight) can become very painful.
What are other likely causes of joint pain?
Joint pain can be attributed to a lot of other conditions including but are not limited to the following:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Meralgia paresthetica
- Bone cancer
- Broken bone
- Strains and sprains
- Paget’s disease of the bone
- Septic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Polymyalgia rheumatic
- Complex regional pain syndrome
What are some of the common symptoms of joint pain?
In majority of the cases, joint pain is relatively harmless and will often respond well to home remedies.
However, seeing the doctor is necessary if the following symptoms are observed:
A visit to the doctor should also be a priority if the joint pain resulted from injury and is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Severe pain
- Sudden swelling
- Inability to use the joint
- Joint deformity
What are the treatment options for joint pain?
For joint pain, accurate diagnosis has to be made before deciding on the appropriate course of treatment.
Whatever the treatment route may be, the goals are one and the same—alleviate the pain, reduce the inflammation, and preserve the joint’s function.
Some of the likely treatments for joint pain includes:
If there is no pain relief from joint pain using oral or topical medications, a steroid medication may be prescribed.
Together with a local anesthetic, the medication is directly injected into the joint. This is done every 3 to 4 months.
This treatment option is often the likely alternative for those patients who are suffering from tendinitis, arthritis, and other joint diseases.
For joint pain that is moderate to severe (with noticeable swelling), over the counter painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are given.
For those with mild joint pains without swelling, acetaminophen (Tylenol) will be recommended.
However, taking acetaminophen should be done with caution especially if you ingest alcoholic drinks on a regular basis as it might result to liver damage.
If the joint pain is severe and NSAIDs won’t provide any relief, a strong opioid medication might be recommended.
But since opioid drugs may cause drowsiness, it should only be taken upon the doctor’s recommendation.
Constipation is another possible effect of taking opioids but it can be easily remedied with laxatives.
Other medications that can help ease the pain include:
Antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs – these types of medications work by interfering with the pain signals.
Muscle relaxants – aside from combating muscle spasms, relaxants are used together with NSAIDs to maximize pain relief.
Seeing a physical therapist is also a recommended option for patients suffering from pain in the joint.
The physical therapist will use different techniques like manipulation, ultrasound, electrical nerve stimulation, heat or cold therapy, etc. to strengthen the muscles, stabilize the joint, and significantly improve the patient’s motion range.
Getting rid of any excess weight is also recommended for patients who are obese. Losing the extra pounds can help relieve both the pressure and strain on the joints. However, it is advisable to stick only to exercises that are low-impact (i.e. bicycling and swimming) to prevent irritating the joint further.