What causes joint pain?
Our body is made up of three types of joints that allow us to ambulate and perform our daily functions; saddle joints, ball and socket and hinge joints. Here are some examples of these joint classifications:
- Saddle joint – joints that allow for a greater range of motion due to the bone structure – example is the hand/thumb joint
- Ball and socket – joints with a concave receiving bone structure and a ball-like extension that rotate in the “cup” area – examples are the hip and shoulder
- Hinge joints – joints designed to allow movement on a singular plain – examples are the elbow and knee
The internal structure of joints is made up of several tissues and fluid that allows the joint to move and perform freely. The cartilage acts as protection of the bone to create a smooth surface for movement and rotation. The ligaments and tendons attach to the bone and muscles to hold the joint together. The Synovial membrane contains the fluid in the joint that provides lubrication.
Joint pain can be classified as either an onset condition or as an injury from a specific activity. Onset conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and gout. Pain as a result of an injury, regardless of how simple the activity is, are labeled as sprains and strains.
- Osteoarthritis – breakdown of protective cartilage causing bone-on-bone friction
- Rheumatoid arthritis – a condition where the immune system attacks multiple joints in the body, causing pain and inflammation
- Bursitis – Inflammation of the cushioning pads in the joint
- Gout – the build of uric acid crystallizing in the joints
- Sprain – An injury to a ligament
- Strain –An injury to a muscle or tendon
Most treatments for joint pain will be determined by a clinician who will set a specific plan for the individual patient, which can include the reduction of inflammation, pain relief, stabilization of the joint and physical therapy. There are a number of tactics clinicians will use to achieve pain relief:
- Medications – oral and topical medications to relieve pain and inflammation
- Injections – direct injection of steroids to the joint
- Physical therapy – can include manual manipulation, ultrasound therapy, and electronic muscle stimulation
- Self-Care – includes ice, compression, elevation, and nutritional supplements such as glucosamine
- Bracing and supports – used to stabilize, support, apply targeted pressure and reduce inflammation of the joint