Joint pain is discomfort when using any of the joints of the body. These joints can include the spinal or facet joints, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. In addition, the small joints of the fingers and toes can also be affected by disease and cause pain. Many conditions exist that affect the joints, from autoimmune disease to infection to wear and tear. These conditions are all treated differently, and the treatments can range from simple medications to joint replacement surgery.
Rita first started having trouble with her joints in her twenties. Her knuckles would swell, turn red, and be painful to the touch. The pain came and went, but it started to get worse as she got older. She went to see her doctor who told her that she had rheumatoid arthritis, and she was given medication for the pain, a steroid for the swelling, and an immunosuppressant for her overactive immune system. Although she still has pain from time to time, her condition is under control, and she lives a full life.
At the SoCal Pain Center, we are well aware of the different causes of joint pain. We can help you with your chronic pain from a joint condition, and we can help to plan further treatments for you if you need more definitive care. For instance, if you have arthritis of the small joints of the back, we can refer you to our spinal surgeons for possible spinal fusion.
Many conditions can cause joint pain. The most common cause of this type of pain is arthritis in one of its many forms. The autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis can destroy any of the joints of the body, and osteoarthritis is essentially wear and tear on the joints. In addition, the bone can become infected, called osteomyelitis, or the joint itself can be infected, called septic arthritis. Of course, a simple sprain or strain of the joint can cause pain, and this is usually due to direct trauma or overuse.
Perhaps the largest category that causes joint pain is infections. For instance, influenza, chicken pox, measles, mumps, and hepatitis are all known for causing discomfort in the joints. Another autoimmune disease that can cause this condition is lupus, and gout is well known for causing pain in the joint of the big toe. Finally, bursitis, tendonitis, and fracture can all lead to pain in the joint that was overused or misused.
For most conditions, the primary symptom will manifest as discomfort when moving the joint. This is usually on flexion of the joint in question, and it can get worse with weight bearing activities. The pain is often felt as a sharp pain on movement, although it can certainly ache when the joint is motionless. Stiffness is another hallmark symptom of joint pain, and it means that it is difficult to move the joint through its entire range of motion. In severe cases, the joint may lock up and become immobile.
In most cases, the pain only affects one joint, but some conditions can affect several or most of the joints of the body. Many infections fall into this category, but the most common cause of multiple joint pains is rheumatoid arthritis. It can cause swelling and disfiguration of the joint, and multiple joints will turn red and become tender to the touch. Swelling can also occur in the case of sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis.
The treatment course for joint pain is largely dependent on cause. With infections, a course of antibiotics or simply letting the illness run its course is enough to make the pain go away. When you strain or sprain your joints, a course of rest, ice, compression bandages, and elevating the joint above the level of the heart can often eliminate pain. In addition, over the counter pain medications, such as Advil, can help to reduce swelling and pain in these situations.
With arthritis, the course is often more complex. For osteoarthritis, simply resting the joint may help, but you may need anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to restore the movement to the joint. With rheumatoid arthritis, you may need to take a steroid medication and an immune suppressant drug to keep the joint destruction to a minimum. With either condition, the joint may deteriorate to the point that an artificial joint is needed. Usually, the joints replaced are the knees and hips, although the shoulder can be replaced as well. This is usually the course when the joint fails to respond to more conservative methods of treatment.
At the SoCal Pain Center, we see patients with joint pain and back pain from any number of causes. Although we do not provide orthopedic surgeries, we can help you control your pain through the use of medications. Our dedicated pain management doctor can manage your medication regimen. In addition, we have physical therapy professionals on hand that can help with recovering your range of motion. Call us today for a consultation.