What is Joint Pain?
Joint pain is also referred to as arthralgia and can affect one or more of the joints. Joints are responsible for facilitating movements in various parts of the body – and are therefore very sensitive to injury or excess physical pressure. Furthermore, an injured or swollen joint can cause much discomfort as we rely on our joints every day!
Most people have experienced joint pain at some point in their lives, some more severely than others. It can be very difficult and frustrating to cope with, especially when it hampers your ability to perform daily activities. Simple tasks like getting out of bed or brushing your hair can be exhausting and aggravate the pain even more. Depending on the cause of the symptoms of joint pain, you may experience it for a relatively short period of time or it may trouble you for the rest of your life.
Diagnosing Joint Pain
Joint pain affects all age groups – children, adults and the elderly are all at risk for joint pain from injury. Athletes place themselves at a higher risk due to sports injuries, while older people may often suffer from weakened bone strength. Those who are overweight or obese may also experience joint pain in their knees and ankles because of the excess weight that they are carrying.
Joint pain is a symptom and not a diagnosis – it is important to diagnose the cause of your joint pain as this will determine the best course of treatment for you. A physical examination, clinical history, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bone scans, and blood or urine tests will be able to help your doctor determine the causes of joint pain. Various tests may be performed to locate the root of the problem.
Help for Joint Pain
Once the causes of joint pain are been established, there are a wide variety of conventional treatment options available to alleviate the symptoms of joint pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants are commonly recommended to treat milder symptoms.
More severe symptoms of joint pain, often related to chronic conditions, will require prescription NSAIDs to reduce pain, inflammation or swelling. Unfortunately, most of these over-the-counter and prescription medications have potentially harmful side effects which can increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack in patients.
Self care is important for coping with painful joints. A healthy diet and a good exercise and stretching program help to increase mobility, flexibility and levels of fitness and provide minor joint pain relief. Athletes however should restrict strenuous activities when injured and during the recovery process. Alternative methods such as heat and ice, infrared therapies, or applying pain patches can offer safe and effective minor joint pain relief.