Joint pain, depending on its severity, worsens everyday life to a greater or lesser degree. In extreme cases, they may even make it completely impossible to do the simplest things.
What can cause joint problems and what should they be treated with?
pisodic and short-term joint problems are not a problem yet – they may be the result of excessive physical effort, ignorance of the possibilities of one’s own body or injury.
For example, among runners, injuries to the knee joint are common. In such cases, it’s enough to give up training for a certain period of time for the joints to regain their full fitness as a result of regeneration processes. There is no need to resort to the use of any drugs or preparations.
This is different when the pain is chronic. Then it is advisable to consult a doctor. Ignoring chronic joint problems generally only aggravates them, and the later the treatment starts, the harder it will be to recover.
The type of therapy used depends on the cause of the pain, therefore, independent attempts to relieve it, without consulting a specialist, may not bring the desired results, or even only make the situation worse.
Causes of joint pain
Joint pain can be caused by:
- rheumatic diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, Still’s disease;
- mechanical injuries,
- bacterial or viral infections,
- psoriatic arthritis,
- use of certain medications,
- bone or cartilage cancer,
- inflammatory bowel disease,
- overweight or obesity,
- excessive physical activity.
It is a comprehensive register of all causes of joint problems known to medicine.
The most effective way of diagnosing joint ailments is to locate pain centers accurately, as well as to conduct a medical interview with the patient. In particular, information on the duration of the ailment and its possible causes (fall, sprain, etc.) are of key importance.
It is also important whether the pain appears in one place or on both sides of the body; is it caused by joint movement, or does it appear in the morning and disappear after movement. Guiding clues are often symptoms accompanying pain, which symptoms we will mention later in the text, as well as the co-occurrence of other diseases, e.g. psoriasis, intestinal disorders or thyroid disease. To identify the cause of joint problems, of course, you need tests that your doctor will order based on your medical history.
Within the framework of rheumatic diagnostics, morphology and OB, and in some cases also joint puncture, are performed. However, imaging studies are the most important: Ultrasound of the affected joint, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.
Joint ailments manifest themselves not only as pain, but also as the most noticeable and troublesome symptom.
It’s often accompanied by swelling and redness, and there may also be difficulties in moving the limbs. In case of these symptoms it is necessary to consult a doctor as soon as possible, because they give rise to suspicion of serious diseases.
Especially if the above symptoms are accompanied by problems with getting up in the morning, weight loss, fever, muscle pain and chronic fatigue.
How to relieve pain?
The treatment of joint problems should, of course, be preceded by a diagnosis that shows what is their direct cause. Regardless of the source of pain, you can try to reduce it in several ways.
Wrapping sore spots with ice and lubricating them with special pharmacy gels is a great relief. Compresses made at least twice a day not only relieve pain, but also reduce inflammation.
It can also be effective to reduce excessive joint activity, especially if the pain is very intense. In general, underestimating chronic pain only exacerbates it and leads to progressive cartilage degeneration in the joint. After relieving pain, it is advisable to perform exercises to strengthen the joint, preferably under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
Hydrotherapy, i.e. water therapy, is also used to treat joint problems. Swimming, as well as cycling and stretching exercise, allows you to move the joints without putting too much strain on them. In the case of mechanical injuries, the painful areas are first cooled down and then heated.
However, the best results can be achieved by using analgesics or anti-inflammatory preparations.
A large part of them is available in pharmacies without a prescription, but it is worth remembering that they can be used without consulting a doctor only for a few days (the maximum period of treatment is always indicated on the leaflet). If your condition does not improve despite taking medication, you will need to visit a specialist.
Treatment of joint ailments includes non-pharmacological methods (weight reduction, rehabilitation, patient education), pharmacological and surgical methods. The main role in pharmacological treatment is played by locally applied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with or without capsaicin. In the case of more severe symptoms, however, they do not work – then you need to reach for more advanced preparations: paracetamol and even opioids (with very intense, difficult to bear pain).
Some conditions underlying joint problems cause irreversible effects on cartilage and bone. So far, no drug has been invented that would reverse or even inhibit the degenerative process inherent in osteoarthritis.
For this condition, the only means available are painkillers. Various types of joint pain supplements will work in this role.
Electrogalvanization is performed in the case of pain syndromes associated with degenerative disease of the spine, neuralgia, chronic neuritis, plexuses and nerve roots.
The procedure, lasting from 15 to 20 minutes, involves applying two electrodes emitting low intensity electricity to the sore spot. Contraindications to its implementation are purulent inflammation of the skin and soft tissues as well as eczema.
Advanced osteoarthritis in the joint is an indication for a specialist surgical procedure – endoprosthetic surgery. It consists in excision of the degenerative joint and implantation in its place of a prosthesis, which takes over the function of the damaged structure.
This procedure is carried out not only in the case of degenerative changes, but also in many injuries, e.g. hip fracture or fracture in the trochanter area. It is worth noting, however, that the operation is the last resort – it is recommended to perform it only when conservative management and the use of pharmaceuticals do not bring the desired results.
Compared to other surgical procedures used in the case of degenerative changes, such as corrective osteotomy, arthrodesis, joint rinsing or synovectomy, endoprosthesis is much more effective.
Rehabilitation is one of the non-pharmacological methods of treating joint ailments. Its effectiveness may vary depending on the severity of the disease, its type and general health of the patient. It often complements pharmacological treatment.
Within it, we distinguish three basic techniques: shortwave diathermy, galvanization and a four-chamber bath. Below we will briefly describe each of these methods.
Shortwave diathermy is indicated for pain and chronic inflammation of joints and surrounding areas, as well as osteoarthritis of the spine. It consists in the fact that electrodes that emit electricity are attached to the sore spot. It warms up the joints, relaxing them and relieving pain.
Contraindications to short-wave diathermy are:
- circulatory disorders,
- stomach and duodenal ulcer,
- purulent otitis media and cholecystitis,
- kidney and liver abscess,
- varicose veins,
- metal implants.
A four-chamber bath is indicated for pain syndromes associated with osteoarthritis of the spine and osteoarthritis. The patient first submerges his legs and then his hands in four water-filled chambers, and then is exposed to direct current for 10-20 minutes.
Contraindications to this therapy are such conditions as hypertension, high hypertension, fever or circulation problems.
Arthralgia is a very troublesome condition that makes it difficult or impossible to perform everyday activities. Depending on the cause and duration, they may be more or less severe. We have listed various methods of treatment above: some of them are focused on pain relief, while others are aimed at eliminating the sources of pain.
The most common joint pain disorder, degenerative arthritis, is still a challenge for medicine, as it only deals with the extinction of symptoms. However, consistent adherence to medical recommendations and systematic, comprehensive treatment allows to regain efficiency enough so that joint pain does not significantly impair everyday life.