FAQs on Joint Pain and Treatment Options

 


Joint pain is a sensation of soreness or discomfort in one or more joints of the body. Joints are the spaces of the body where two bones meet, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and ankle. Joint pain is often the result of inflammation, and can occur with or without movement.

What are the structures of a joint?

Joints allow the bones to move. They are composed of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bursas (fluid-filled sacs), and the lining of the joint (synovial membrane). When any of these structures becomes inflamed, joint pain occurs. Each of these parts serve a purpose for the function of the joint.

What are the symptoms associated with joint pain?

Joint pain can be short-term (acute) or long-standing (chronic), which is defined as pain that persists more than three months. Joint pain is often accompanied by stiffness, limited mobility, joint noise (clicking or popping), and warmth of the joint. With severe arthritis, joint deformities may occur.

What causes joint pain?

Sudden onset of joint pain can be due to a mild ligament strain, muscle sprain, bursitis, separation, overuse injury, or dislocation. Chronic joint pain is often a symptom of a serious condition, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriasis, Sjogren’s syndrome, or bone cancer. In addition, numerous infectious diseases can cause joint pain, including septic arthritis, hepatitis, Lyme disease, and tuberculosis.

What are the potential complications of joint pain?

Complications associated with joint pain often are progressive, but they vary depending on the underlying causative condition. Failure to seek treatment can result in complications, so it is best to visit a doctor if you experience this problem. Complications that could possible occur include:

  • Loss of joint mobility
  • Joint deformity
  • Permanent instability, immobility, and loss of joint sensation
  • Physical disability
  • Paralysis

What are the treatment options for joint pain?

The treatment of joint pain depends on the underlying cause. For chronic joint pain related to arthritis and bursitis, treatment options include:

  • Steroid injection – The doctor can inject a steroid into the joint space to reduce inflammation and swelling. The commonly used agents are triamcinolone and methylprednisolone, which are formulated to remain inside the joint. Sometimes, the injection procedure involves the removal of synovial fluid for laboratory analysis or to eliminate a joint effusion. In a recent clinical study of more than 50 participants, steroid injection significantly improved functional status and relieved pain for up to three months.
  • Hyaluronic acid injection – A lubricant designed to mimic synovial fluid is hyaluronic acid. Injecting this substance inside the joint will replace fluid lost with wear and tear, as well as alleviate the pain associated with friction. Commonly used agents include Hyalgan, Orthovisc, and Synvisc, and the injections last for up to 6 months. In one recent clinical study, patients with osteoarthritis of the knee had improvement of pain and function for up to 25 weeks after the injection of hyaluronic acid.
  • Joint arthroscopy – If the patient has joint damage or injury, the doctor may perform an arthroscopy. This procedure is both a diagnostic and treatment procedure, which involves making small incisions around the joint so an arthroscope and tiny instruments can be inserted inside the joint. The doctor visualizes the inside of the joint on a TV monitor, makes the diagnosis, and then repairs damage.