Did you know there are multiple types of joints in the body? Ball and socket joints involve the hip and shoulders. These allow full range of motion. The spherical head of one bone joins with the cavity of another. This makes the shoulder the most mobile joint in the body, while the hip is a stable weight-baring joint. Cartilage lining the sockets helps to keep the bones in place, with ligaments extending to the bones to provide strength. Hinge joints allow movement in one direction. Think fingers, toes, elbows and knees. The knee is the largest joint in the body and it is unique because it can swivel – giving a larger range of motion to the foot.
Gliding, or pivot, joints allow sideways movement. Think of the neck’s ability to sway from side to side, or up and down. The same joint is found in the wrist and ankle – allowing twisting motion.
Saddle Joints allow for even more movement than a hinge or gliding joint, by providing movement in two directions. The thumb is able to move across the palm of the hand due to this joint. The spine holds the most joints in the human form – connecting each pair of vertebrae to the spinal column. These joints give the spine the ability to twist and move, all while protecting the precious nerves enclosed in the spinal column.
Osteoarthritis: Joint Pain Culprit
The most common reason for joint pain – in any of the joints aforementioned – is osteoarthritis. This chronic illness is caused from inflammation and loss of cartilage. Cartilage, when lost, cannot be repaired. When it deteriorates, bone spurs can form causing inflammation of the area and chronic pain. Most Americans age 70 and older report osteoarthritic pain.
While the cause of osteoarthritis isn’t known, it is thought several factors come into play. Genetics, joint degeneration and weight gain may influence this disease of aging. other risk factors include: obesity, female gender, muscle weakness, joint overuse/repetitive use, joint trauma, and joint instability. officials from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) reported in 2007,
“Arthritis continues to burden the US population as the leading cause of physical disability and affects women disproportionately; women with arthritis report greater prevalence of activity and work limitations, psychological distress, and severe joint pain than their male counterparts.”
The researchers did not explain why chronic illness affects women more than men.
Symptoms include the obvious joint pain, swelling, limited range of motion, and stiffness. Pain may continue during periods of rest.
Other than osteoarthritis, researchers at the Mayo Clinic report the following may also cause joint pain: advanced cancer, broken bone, bursitis, dislocation, fibromyalgia, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, osteoporosis, sarcoidosis, sprains, strains and tendinitis. Additionally, Arizona Pain Specialists treat joint pain patients for the following:
- Avascular Femoral Head necrosis – caused by an incomplete blood supply to the bone. normal tissue may be destroyed. A fracture or dislocation of the femoral neck may damage blood vessels. When necrosis is present, the bone is too weak to support body weight, causing further col- lapse and fractures.
- Labral Tears – this tear is found in the cartilage that lines the femur ball in the hip joint. The tear may be caused by wear, or from arthritis. Patients often report a “locking” sensation in the hip when they have a labral tear.
- Lumbar Radiculitis – this pain is caused from an aggravated nerve root that sends pain radiating into lower extremities, includ- ing the hips. Treating the inflamed nerve root will relieve pain.
Joint Pain Treatments:
To determine the cause of the joint pain, a physician will take a history and comprehensive physical exam. During this, the pain specialist will be looking for tenderness at the joint, range of motion, swelling, and crepitus – the crackling sound sometimes heard at the joint. For osteoarthritis, an X-ray may be ordered to further exam the joint space and cartilage loss. other diagnostic tools, including MRI and ultrasound may be ordered to provide additional insight.
Osteoarthritis specifically is treated from many angles. Depending on the patient, weight loss, dietary counseling and behavior change may be ordered to reduce obesity and stress on the joints. other non-medical therapies that may be suggested include patient education, resting the affected joint and physical therapy. Early stages of osteoarthritis can be tempered with such conservative treatment options – including anti-inflammatory over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and Advil, paired with rest.
However, for those who have more advanced cases and inflammation, opioids may be prescribed. Further, steroid injections may be given for short-term pain relief when patients fail the aforementioned conservative care options. Research shows joint injections are a safe and effective procedure; they are regularly prescribed by pain management physicians. The injection includes corticosteroids, which work actively to minimize inflammation thereby alleviating pain. Such procedures involve sterilizing the area, numbing the skin, using X-ray or ultrasound guidance to insert the needle into the joint, and injecting the medication. Considering the joint is tender prior to the procedure, patients are counseled to ice the area afterward. Afterward, physical therapy is often recommended to improve mobility.
When necessary, more invasive procedures – such as joint replacement, arthroscopy or osteotomy, may provide long- term relief for severe pain.
Research has shown the most effective way to control joint related osteoarthritic pain is with exercise and weight lost.
Those who suffer from joint pain are wise to pay attention to the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular exercise and a healthy diet may prevent many joint related issues. Making an appointment with a pain specialist in the early stages of joint pain is also wise; many conservative treatment options are available to reduce pain.
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