Joints form the connections to bones. They support your bones and help you move easily. Any damage to the joints from injury or disease can interfere with your regular movement and cause a lot of pain.
Aching joints have a number of causes
The most frequent cause of joint pain is acute injury. Joint pain results from repeated physical activity, lack of exercise, and being overweight. Joint pain can be annoying and debilitating and prevent us from enjoying daily activities. (1) One of the most common causes of aching joints is injury. Joints such as knees, hips and shoulders are especially vulnerable to injury.
Sports injuries such as sprains, torn ligaments, torn cartilage, dislocations or direct impact injuries are common. People who play sports are most at risk for serious joint injury.
Other injuries develop over a longer period of time due to overuse and cause damage to the tissues around the joints. Aching joints may also be due to other well-known causes such as the onset of arthritis.
There are two types of arthritis- osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
These conditions are another common cause of aching joints. With osteoarthritis the joint has degenerated over time, causing pain and swelling around the joint area. For many people, stiff, aching joints are the first sign of osteoarthritis, a disease also characterized by loss of tissue that lines and lubricates the weight-bearing joints. (2) Osteoarthritis results in billions of dollars in health care costs as well as the cost to our economy of lost productivity. The second form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune condition where the joints attack themselves and the surrounding connective tissue.
Pervasive body pain and fatigue are common symptoms of joint pain but they may also be signs of other medical conditions that need immediate treatment
It can be difficult to find the cause of joint pain and sometimes bones ache for no apparent reason. Doctors have to perform more extensive testing such as: comprehensive metabolic tests, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), urinalysis, to diagnose more serious conditions. (3) Autoimmune disorders such as lyme disease, fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) need to be identified early so that they do not continue to damage joints and further restrict movement.
Infections and other autoimmune diseases
Infections are known to cause aching joints in some cases. Joint pain and swelling which mimics arthritis can also be a symptom of lyme disease. (3) This is a serious condition and if left untreated can result in long-term joint damage. Lyme disease is a bacterial illness spread by tick bites. Lyme disease can be serious and affects not only the skin and joint but it may also spread to the central nervous system.
Fibromyalgia another serious autoimmune decease can affect muscles and the tissues between the joints, causing more chronic symptoms including muscle pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. Other infections that are known to cause joint pain include measles, hepatitis, and syphilis.
There are both short-term and longer-term therapies that have an impact on joint pain. These include not only physical therapies, like massage and chiropractic treatment, but also acupuncture, reflexology, and herbal medicines. (2)
Medical treatments by doctors include injecting corticosteroids directly into the joint for quick relief of pain and inflammation
They first draw fluid from the joint with a needle, to decrease pain and make joints movement easier. Some patients find that these injections can help a great deal with their symptoms in the short term, while they decide on what treatments might be best.
As a physical therapy to relieve joint pain, heat has been used for generations to alleviate pain. Heat opens up blood vessels, which helps increase blood flow to the area and in-turn reduces swelling and eases pain. (4) Other treatments that use heat to reduce swelling include electric heating pads, disposable heat patches, or microwavable hot packs. Heat treatments are sometimes combined with ice packs to reduce swelling.
There are also more therapies such as Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a Chinese art for healing and self defense. This form of therapy is now being evaluated by Harvard Medical and other researchers. Early studies show that tai chi helps relieve stress, improves body awareness. Tai chi can benefit people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia but more studies of its effectiveness need to be undertaken. (5)
Can exercise strengthen your joints or should you exercise less to avoid further damage to your aching joints?
Walking would be difficult if you had a problem in the knee or hip. Regular walking doesn’t cause arthritis or wear down the joints. Most people will have some level of arthritis as they get older; however arthritis like other diseases is more influenced by our genetics than our lifestyle. Injuries to joints like our knees and shoulders can cause arthritis as we age. Runners would be more susceptible to arthritic conditions as they age because of the pounding to their joints from running and as previously mentioned athletes suffer more injuries to their joints. Sometimes, exercise can exasperate a medical condition. Homeopathic remedies such as bryonia alba and rhus tox are often prescribed for joint pain. (6) They are used when there is inflammation and pain around the surface of joints as in osteoarthritis.
Another proactive way to deal with the symptoms of joint pain is a change in diet
Dietary changes have the potential to improve your overall health and reduce joint pain. High-sugar, high-fat diets are associated with a myriad of health problems from diabetes to obesity, cancer, congestive heart failure, arthritis and many other diseases. (3) Sugar is said to contribute to premature aging in adults and behavior problems in children. Avoiding simple carbohydrates and sugar is a great ways to improve your overall health and well-being.
Whichever type of treatment you choose for your joint ache you can be certain that it is better to read more and seek medical advice in order to make and educated choice.