Understanding Joint Pain
Sprained ankles and wrists, arthritic knees and hips, and torn rotator cuffs all have one thing in common: they result in joint pain.
The usual causes of joint pain are over use, sprains, fractures, and arthritis. Becoming familiar with the usual causes and symptoms of joint pain can help you seek appropriate treatment and ongoing care, if necessary.
Here are several medical conditions that can cause joint pain.
Persistent joint pain, swelling, and limited range of motion are typical symptoms of arthritis. Inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid or gouty arthritis, may also make the joint red, hot, and tender to the touch.
Mild arthritis can often be self-managed with pain relievers, ice, and gentle range of motion exercise. Pain that is getting worse or is severe warrants a trip to the doctor to verify the diagnosis and get stronger medications or other therapies.
This is a chronic disease of the joints and the most common joint disorder. The cartilage between a joint's bones gradually wears away with time and use. The lack of cartilage results in pain and stiffness in the joint.
Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon, a thick fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone. Some common names for tendonitis are tennis or golfer’s elbow and repetitive stress injury. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and mild swelling near a joint.
Self-care that includes ice and resting the joint are often effective. A doctor should evaluate ongoing pain.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament. The severity of the injury depends on how badly a ligament is torn or strained and the number of ligaments involved. A sprain can result from a fall, sudden twist, or blow to the body that forces a joint out of its normal position.
The usual signs and symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and loss of the ability to use the joint.
The bursae are fluid-filled sacs around the joints that allow muscles and tendons to slip easily over the ends of bones. If these bursae become inflamed, the joint will be painful.
See a doctor
Although mild joint pain can often be treated with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and over-the-counter pain and inflammation relievers, you should see a doctor if you have severe pain, can’t put any weight on the joint, it looks crooked, or you can’t move it.
Do not resume full activity before you are fully recovered or you are at greater risk for reinjury.
- Larson, Kim APRN, FNP
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician