Joint pain occurs in regions of the body where the bones meet, such as the knees, hips, wrists, shoulders and elbows. Apart from general discomfort, there may also be other symptoms like swelling, tenderness, soreness and warmth around the affected area.
While aching joints are a common complaint, they may indicate an underlying medical condition and should not be ignored. Here are some possible causes of joint pain you should know about.
Arthritis is a common condition that affects the joints. Apart from pain and inflammation, arthritis may cause other symptoms like stiffness and a decreased range of motion. There are different types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis, joint cartilage breaks down due to “wear and tear”, resulting in pain. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, fluid build-up and pain in the joints.
Bursitis occurs due to the inflammation of bursae, or small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints. Bursitis can occur near joints that frequently perform repetitive motion, including the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee. Apart from pain, joints affected by bursitis may also feel stiff and swollen.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause inflammation in various parts of the body, including the joints. Joint pain associated with lupus typically occurs in joints further from the torso, such as the fingers, elbows, wrists, toes, knees and ankles. Unlike other forms of arthritis, lupus is unlikely to cause permanent damage to the joints. Pain arising from lupus may also be caused by fibromyalgia, a condition that commonly coexists with autoimmune disorders. While fibromyalgia does not cause joint inflammation or damage, it can intensify feelings of joint pain.
Gout is a complex form of arthritis caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced when the body breaks down purines, which can be found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat and seafood. When the body produces uric acid in excess, or the kidneys excrete too little uric acid, uric acid can build up and form sharp, needle-like crystals in a joint, causing pain, inflammation and swelling.
Menopause results in low levels of estrogen, which is responsible for fluid regulation in the body. With lower levels of estrogen, the body is less able to retain water, affecting the lubrication of joint tissues and resulting in pain and stiffness. Since estrogen also fights inflammation in the body, menopause could result in increased inflammation, elevating the risk of joint pain.
Why joint pain shouldn’t be ignored
If left untreated, joint pain can result in serious implications, such as increased pain, mobility issues and even injury. By seeking timely intervention for joint pain, you can get early diagnoses and treatment, potentially delaying or preventing the need for invasive surgical procedures.
See a doctor if you are experiencing the following:
- New or unexplained joint pain that is not going away after a few days
- Chronic joint pain that has lasted for months or years
- Mobility issues, such as having trouble walking, climbing stairs or reaching over your head
- Intense pain that wakes you at night
- Sudden changes to a joint’s appearance
Apart from medical treatment, your doctor may recommend exercises and lifestyle changes to help manage joint pain, including:
- Daily, gentle stretching exercises that allow your joints to move through their full range of motion
- Maintaining a good sitting, standing and moving posture
- Weight management
- Quitting smoking