There is a wide variety of diseases and conditions that can cause this ailment.
Joint pain can also generate significant financial costs and a decrease in the patient’s quality of life, both in their productivity of the work activities they perform and in their personal life.
Aging populations, sedentary lifestyles, and an increased propensity for obesity mean that the problem of joint pain is likely to continue unabated worldwide.
Joint pain can be caused by an injury that affects any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons that surround the joint.
Injuries can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint.
Pain is a feature of joint inflammation and infection, and in very rare cases it can be a cause of joint cancer.
Pain within the joint is a common cause of shoulder pain, ankle pain, and knee pain. Joint pain is also known as arthralgia.
Causes of joint pain
Joint pain can be caused by injury or disease to the joint or nearby tissues.
Including cartilage that serves as a shock absorber for adjacent bones, tendons, and ligaments that attach muscles to bone and stabilize the joint, muscles, or bursae.
These bags are filled with fluid that provide lubrication near the joints.
Among the most common causes are:
Inflammatory monoarticular arthritis
- Non-gonococcal septic arthritis.
- Gonococcal arthritis
- Lyme’s desease.
- The drop.
Non-inflammatory monoarticular arthritis
- Necrosis avascular.
Inflammatory polyarticular arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Psoriasis arthritis.
- Other rheumatic diseases.
- Endocarditis bacteriana.
- Lyme’s desease.
- Gonococcal arthritis
- Hepatitis B.
- Rheumatic fever.
Symptoms of joint pain
Signs of joint inflammation include:
- Tenderness in the joint.
- Pain with movement.
- Joint redness
- Swelling of the joints
- Hot joints.
- Joint lock.
- Loss of range of motion of the joint.
- Soft spot.
Diagnosis of joint pain
The causes of joint pain range from common to rare and from not particularly dangerous to joint and potentially serious.
Even the most benign causes of joint pain can lead to serious disability.
Evaluation of a patient with joint pain requires a detailed medical history and physical examination (often focusing on extra-articular findings).
It may also occasionally require the collection of joint fluid samples and possibly the analysis of radiological and serological tests.
The differential diagnosis of joint pain can be framed with the use of fundamental questions such as:
- Pain occurs in a single joint or multiple joints are involved, to determine if the pain is joint or polyarticular.
- Pain occurs within the joint or outside (articular or extra-articular).
- Are the affected joints inflamed or not.
- What is the degree of acuteness of the pain.
Tests that can be done include:
- Complete blood count or blood differential, this test measures the number and types of white blood cells in the blood.
- C-reactive protein, the elevation of its values suggests inflammation in the body.
- X-ray of the joint, to detect injury or disease in the joints.
- Sedimentation rate, this is a diagnostic test that also reveals inflammatory activity in the body
- Specific blood tests for various autoimmune disorders.
- Joint aspiration to obtain joint fluid for culture, white blood cell count, and crystal examination.
Treatment of joint pain
Treatments for joint pain may include:
- Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that include ibuprofen, naproxen, or indomethacin.
- Corticosteroid injection into the joints.
- Antibiotics and often surgical drainage, in case of infection (usually requires hospitalization).
- Physiotherapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation.
Chronic joint pain can be manageable, but medication treatment often fails to eliminate symptoms and patients may continue to suffer from pain and must adopt a combination of treatments.
In fact, medications such as pain relievers and steroids cause side effects, making rehab and physical therapy essential.