Joint pain is a very common condition in people of all ages. Unlike what many people may believe, joint pain isn't a condition strictly experienced by senior citizens. Younger adults and even children and teens sometimes experience joint pain for various reasons. If you have been suffering from joint pain on a regular basis and over-the-counter medications are not fully alleviating your discomfort, then it may be time to be evaluated by a medical professional. A doctor who specializes in the treatment of joint pain and related conditions can help you to finally obtain some much-needed relief, because joint pain can sometimes be debilitating.
Determining the source of your pain
During your initial appointment with the doctor, he or she will ask about your medical history and take a very careful assessment of your joints. You will be asked about the over-the-counter treatments you have tried, whether or not they successfully alleviated your pain, as well as when your joint pain first started. The doctor will then physically examine you, paying careful attention to the affected joints. The physician will also order various tests, including blood work, x-rays and possibly even an MRI in order to determine the exact cause of your pain.
Which conditions produce joint pain?
There are many different conditions that cause chronic joint pain. Osteoarthritis
, which is the most common cause of joint pain, occurs due to wear and tear. The cartilage that protects the bones simply wears down over time, resulting in damage, and eventually swelling and pain. In some cases the wear and tear is due to aging, but in overweight and obese individuals, the wear and tear process is often accelerated due to the additional weight that the body must contend with. Some other conditions that cause chronic joint pain are autoimmune-related conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in addition to many others. In these conditions, the body attacks its own tissues, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and chronic joint pain as well as other issues.
What are some available treatments?
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and many other causes of chronic joint pain. Luckily, there are many available treatments for chronic joint pain, although the specific treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the pain. For joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, treatment can include over-the-counter and prescription analgesics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are usually more effective at alleviating pain than Tylenol and similar medications. For individuals with severe pain that fails to respond to NSAIDS, narcotics are sometimes used, although sparingly, in order to prevent possible addiction.
Another treatment possibility for osteoarthritis includes physical therapy, which can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints, therefore increasing range of motion and decreasing pain in the process. Injections of corticosteroids can help to alleviate joint pain, although this treatment must be limited since repeated use can further damage the joints. Another type of injection that is helpful for osteoarthritis is a hyaluronic acid derivative, which can mimic the natural cushioning material in the joints, and can therefore lessen the impact caused by the condition. In cases where all other treatment options have been exhausted, surgery may be necessary, to either realign the bones or replace the damaged joint with an artificial one.
Treatments for chronic joint pain caused by autoimmune disease will vary somewhat, since wear and tear is not the cause of the joint damage. Like osteoarthritis, NSAIDS are used to treat joint pain related to lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and the many other autoimmune conditions that can cause joint pain. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) can help save the joints and prevent further damage in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Immunosuppressant drugs that help calm down the immune system's attack on the joints and medications that target inflammation are treatment options as well. Additionally, like individuals with osteoarthritis, physical therapy and even surgery are optional treatments for those with autoimmune joint damage and pain.
There is no reason to live with chronic joint pain, which can sometimes be excruciating and significantly reduce a person's quality of life. If you suffer from chronic joint pain on a regular basis, then you should seek medical treatment. A trained medical professional will get to the root cause of your joint pain and then carefully customize a treatment plan to treat your specific case, which can minimize your pain and discomfort in the process.