Joint pain

What is joint pain?

Joint pain refers to pain, discomfort and soreness in the joints. Joints are the parts of your body where bones meet. They allow your bones to move. Joints include the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Joint pain can be the result of damage that occurs through normal wear and tear or be a sign of an infection or an underlying condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms of joint pain?

Symptoms of joint pain include:

  • Swelling, redness and tenderness around the joint
  • Pain persisting for three days or longer
  • Fever symptoms without the flu

You should seek emergency care if the following symptoms are present:

  • Joint deformity
  • Swelling that occurs suddenly without reason
  • If you’ve had an injury or fall
  • You can’t move your joint
  • You have extreme pain

How is joint pain diagnosed?

Your doctor performs a physical exam. A joint X-ray may be carried out to look at the joint damage. A blood test may be performed to detect if there is an autoimmune disorder.

What causes joint pain?

Joint pain is usually caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and sometimes it’s caused by an illness or an injury. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain and is mostly found among adults over the age of 40. Osteoarthritis affects the wrists, hands, hips and knees. The disease results from the breakdown of cartilage which acts a shock absorber and cushions joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men and causes pain, inflammation and a build-up of fluid in the joints because the body’s immune system is attacking itself.

Other causes of joint pain include:

  • Lupus
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Infectious diseases such as mumps, influenza and hepatitis
  • Chondromalacia of the kneecap
  • Tendonitis
  • Overusing joints
  • Cancer
  • Rickets
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sarcoidosis

How can joint pain be treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of the pain. Fluid may need to be removed from joints to test for infection or other causes of joint pain. In some instances, surgery to replace the joint may be necessary. There’s no treatment currently available to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but the pain caused by these conditions can be managed with:

  • Topical pain relievers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation
  • Moderate exercise
  • Stretching to keep joints mobile and flexible
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, as this puts less pressure on your joints
  • Getting adequate rest
  • Taking a warm bath or having a massage can also help
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