Joint pain is extremely common. Unfortunately, any of the numerous joints in the body can become inflamed and painful. Sometimes joint pain is acute and related to an injury; other times it is chronic and related to aging or a disease condition. The good news is that whatever its cause, most cases of joint pain can be successfully addressed with a combination of therapeutic treatments and lifestyle changes.
If you are suffering with undiagnosed joint pain, you should consult with a doctor who specializes in pain management and restoration of function (a physiatrist) who will likely be able to uncover the root of your problem and treat it as well. Don’t delay making an appointment since joint pain, left untreated, often worsens and results in joint damage. There are many risk factors for joint pain and you may recognize one or more of the following as pertaining to you:
Being Overweight or Obese
Excess weight puts pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Being heavy also makes it more difficult to move easily, puts you off balance, and may make you more likely to fall and injure yourself.
Smoking interferes with circulation in your joints as well as elsewhere in the body, has been found to intensify pain signals, and often causes coughing which may exacerbate joint pain.
Being “of a Certain Age”
Individuals over 40 may begin to develop osteoarthritis and, sadly, the condition gets worse over time. The longer you live, the more your joints get used (and sometimes abused). Wear and tear erodes the cartilage designed to cushion your bones until the bones rub directly, painfully, against one another. Joint pain can also result from osteoporosis, a generally age-related condition in which bones at the joints and elsewhere weaken, become more porous and brittle, and break easily.
Women are more prone to both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which cause joint pain. The reason for their propensity for osteoarthritis after 50 years of age is believed to be related to hormonal changes at menopause, but the female tendency toward rheumatoid arthritis has not yet been fully explained.
Being Active in Sports
Participating in athletics is good for your health but playing vigorous (especially contact) sports frequently leads to injuries that cause immediate joint pain and also increase the probability of developing osteoarthritis at a young age. Those who engage in sports, even individual sports like skiing, skating, or golfing, may suffer joint pain as a result of repetitive action as well as sudden exertion. Common sports injuries affecting the joints include:
- Sprained ankle
- ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear of the knee
- Tennis elbow (epicondylitis) caused by overuse of the arm, forearm and hand muscles
- Rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder
- Torn meniscus of the knee
In addition, fractures, dislocations, and bursitis can occur at any joint. Bursitis occurs when the small fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, tendons, and muscles at the joints become inflamed. This condition most often affects the shoulder, elbow or hip.
Being in an Accident
No one expects or prepares for a slip and fall or traffic accident, but such events happen every day. Depending on various factors, such as your location in the vehicle at the moment of impact, you can suffer all kinds of joint injuries. Whiplash is a common car accident injury affecting the neck joints, but any joint in the body can be harmed in a crash. It should be noted that if you have been in a car accident you should pay a visit to the doctor even if you have no symptoms because many accident injuries do not reveal themselves immediately.
Certain Disease Conditions
Other types of arthritis besides osteoarthritis are strong risk factors for joint pain. These include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Other serious illnesses, such as bone cancer, can also result in joint pain.
Working at Certain Occupations
A great many jobs come with occupational hazards to joints. These include:
- Construction work and other jobs that involve heavy lifting
- Factory work involving repetitive motion, e.g. on an assembly line
- Being a professional athlete or dancer
- Computer work that may cause wrist joint problems like carpal tunnel syndrome
- Teaching which typically involves a great deal of standing putting pressure on weight-bearing joints
- Being a musician or painter which may strain shoulder, elbow and wrist joints
Being Under Constant Stress or Having Anxiety, Depression or a Mood Disorder
As all doctors know, any pain is made worse by being emotionally troubled. The link between the psyche (mind) and soma (body) is well-proven, so any gifted doctor is likely to be supportive and empathic as well as knowledgeable is her or his field.
No Matter What Your Risk Factors for Joint Pain, Focus on Feeling Better
Contacting a dedicated professional, such as a highly recommended physiatrist, is an important first step in improving your joint pain. These doctors, who make pain management a top priority, will offer you a wide range of options to ease your pain — acupuncture, personalized physical therapy, platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, therapeutic injections that precisely target the pain, Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy, and musculoskeletal ultrasound. With so many types of therapy available, you no longer have to put up with joint pain, no matter what your risk factors.
About The Author: Jason Lipetz, MD
Prior to founding Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, Dr. Lipetz served as the Director of the Center for Spine Rehabilitation for the North Shore Long Island Jewish healthcare system from 1999-2006. Dr. Lipetz received his specialized and interventional spine medicine training during a fellowship year at the internationally recognized Penn Spine Center of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his medical degree with Alpha Omega Alpha honors from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Lipetz completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the prestigious Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.