What Causes Joint Pain?

August 9, 2023

Joint pain can describe inflammation, pain, or discomfort that occurs in any portion of a joint. the joints are the places bones connect. The makeup of joints is what allows individuals to move their body freely. In addition to bone, joints are made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. The cartilage is meant to cushion the ends of bones to keep them from rubbing painfully against each other. Tendons connect muscles to bones, while ligaments connect bones to each other. It's most common for individuals to experience joint pain inside the actual joint. This condition, called arthritis, occurs when the inside of the joint becomes inflamed in some way. Some joint pain is mild enough that the soreness occurs only after physical activity, but other joint pain is severe enough to be disabling.

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Joint Overuse

Joint overuse is a type of injury that occurs when there's repetitive trauma or stress to a joint. The most common reason joint overuse occurs is because of an individual taking on too much physical activity too quickly. This can occur when individuals start a new job that involves more physical activity, take on a new training regimen too fast, or do a one-time project involving a lot of stress on their joints. Training errors and errors in technique are the most common causes of this injury. A training error occurs when individuals increase their physical activity levels too quickly. Exercising for prolonged periods, moving too fast, or doing too many reps of a certain exercise can cause an overuse injury. A technique error occurs when individuals use improper form to exercise or complete other tasks. If individuals don't have the right form when strength training, or if they use the wrong form to throw a baseball or swing a tennis racket, they're more likely to cause strain and pain in their joints.

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An injury to the joint can cause joint pain and potential inflammation. Multiple types of injuries can be caused by overuse, wear and tear, or direct trauma. The four categories of injury are dislocations, fractures, sprains, and strains. When a joint is dislocated, the bone has become separated from its normal position in a joint. Dislocations cause extreme pain and can also make the joint appear disfigured. Fractures refer to a crack, chip, or break in a bone. A fracture requires emergency medical treatment to stabilize the injury and promote healing. Depending on the severity and location of the fracture, patients may need surgery. Sprains occur when the ligaments that hold the bones together become injured. The most common type of sprain is an ankle sprain. A strain causes similar pain to a strain, but it occurs when the tendons or muscles have become overstretched or torn. If the pain from a sprain or strain is disabling, patients should see a doctor to make sure they don't have a fracture.

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Tendinitis is the irritation or inflammation of tendons, which are thick and fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bones, in the body. If an individual has tendinitis, they may experience pain in and around their joint. The condition can develop in any tendon throughout the body, but the most common areas for it to occur are the heels, knees, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. The majority of tendinitis cases can be treated with physical therapy, rest, and pain medications. There are some cases where the condition is severe enough to cause rupturing of a tendon. When the tendon ruptures, patients might need surgery to repair it. The pain from tendinitis tends to be described as dull aching, particularly when patients move the affected joint or limb. The joint may be tender to the touch, and affected individuals may experience some mild swelling. The first line of treatment is rest and at-home remedies. However, if symptoms don't improve after a couple of days of rest, patients should see a doctor.

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Arthritis occurs when one or more joints become swollen and tender. The main symptoms are stiffness and pain in the joints, and the pain tends to get worse as patients age. There are more than one hundred kinds of arthritis, but the two most common are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones wears down over time, which causes the bones to grind painfully together. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means it causes the immune system to attack the joints. The first place rheumatoid arthritis targets is the lining of an individual's joints. If individuals have too much uric acid in their blood, uric acid crystals can form, which can cause gout. Some underlying conditions like lupus and psoriasis can lead to other kinds of arthritis. The treatment of arthritis varies based on the type, severity, and location. In general, the main goal of treatment is to improve the patient's quality of life and reduce their overall symptoms.

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Bones are protected by a layer of cartilage, but that's not the only cushioning that exists. There are also bursae, which are small sacs filled with fluid. They provide cushioning for the muscles, tendons, and bones that make up joints. Bursitis, which occurs when the bursae become inflamed, commonly causes hip, elbow, and shoulder pain though it's also possible for bursae by the base of the big toe, heel, and knee to become inflamed. Treatment for an inflamed bursa involves protecting the joint from additional trauma and resting it. The majority of bursitis pain should go away after a few weeks, but it's common for multiple flareups to happen throughout an individual's life. Bursitis can cause stiffness, aching, swelling, and redness in and around the joint. The joint pain might also intensify when patients move the affected joint or press their fingers against it. Patients should talk to a doctor if the joint is immobile or the pain is disabling.

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