Joint pain is an especially grueling discomfort. If you have it, you know. Joints play a role in all of your movements and make up a good deal of your body.
Different kinds of joint pain present in different ways. If you know what is causing your joint pain, it’s easier to know what to do about it. Joint pain relief is possible when you know the types.
First, what kind of joint pain are you having?
Rheumatoid arthritis joint pain
If your pain has swelling, redness, stiffness, and progresses, you could have rheumatoid arthritis.1 This pain is typically intermittent. For example, it may be worse in the morning compared to the rest of the day. It also tends to show up bilaterally, meaning it doesn’t tend to show up in only one knee or hand.
Osteoarthritis joint pain
If your pain is progressive, sharp, grating, and worse with movement, you may have osteoarthritis. This type of joint pain can come up in overused joints. Persons with obesity, joint injury, or joint overuse from work or sports are at especially high risk for osteoarthritis.2 Because this kind of arthritis is a deterioration of the joint and bone, it can follow later stages of rheumatoid arthritis.
Bursitis joint pain
If your joint pain is in one joint, and the covering skin is hot and red, you may have bursitis. This comes from an infection in the bursa, the knee’s cushion that prevents friction. Bursitis can come from an injury, like a foreign object, an infected hair follicle, or bone break. It can also come from an arthritic disease like rheumatoid arthritis.3
Joint strain pain
If your pain is from an injury and involves the joint and the surrounding tendons and muscles, you may have joint and muscle strain. This can be a true strain (injury to the muscle) or a sprain (injury to the ligaments).4 Since the muscles and ligaments support joints so heavily, the injury’s pain can show up in your joint.
Gout joint pain
If your pain is very severe and comes in bouts, you may have gout.5 This kind of joint pain characteristically has flare-ups. It occurs when too much uric acid is in the body, and crystals form in the joints. Patients often notice an enlarged big toe and worsening pain at night.
Sudden joint pain
If your joint pain is sudden, in the neck, or all over, there are several issues that may be going on. Lyme’s disease, dislocation, or broken bones are a few problems that can cause sudden joint pain. This is especially concerning if you don’t have common risk factors, and your joint pain is accompanied by a fever.6 Consider visiting your doctor or an ER if your joint pain is sudden or unexplained.
Joint pain all over the body
If your pain is widespread and affects more than just your joints, you may have a chronic disorder. Fibromyalgia, lupus, and inflammatory diseases can cause joint pain. These are usually accompanied by muscle pain as well.7
What joint pain relief is available?
Topicals and supplements
If your joint pain is intermittent, mild to moderate, and predictable, you may benefit from a topical or extra vitamins.
- Topicals are generally numbing or muscle relaxing creams that give temporary relief.
- Vitamins can be good for preventing further joint damage. Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and curcumin have been used to reduce inflammation.8
Pain relief medicines
If your pain is severe, you may need pain medication. Many patients have concerns about pain medicine’s addictive properties and side effects. It’s common for patients to need increasing doses the longer they take them. While pain medicines are certainly an option, it’s good to check other alternative or complementary joint pain relief options.
It’s important to remember not to take too many over-the-counter (OTC) medications as well. OTC can help up to a certain point, but after that, the additional tablets don’t help at all. Make sure you talk to your doctor about your OTC medications for chronic pain relief so your kidneys, liver, and digestive tract are not damaged.9
Positional and activity adjustment
Inflammatory types of joint pain tend to do well when you introduce light activity. Staying in one position can make your pain and stiffness worse. Stretches, gentle constant activity, and knowing your limits help make joint pain relief much more tolerable. Physical and occupational therapy can help develop specific exercises to make your normal activities easier.
Joint or nerve surgery
If your pain has not been improved by conventional methods, you may need surgery. Unrelieved joint pain does not have to be your way of life. Surgeries can involve:
- Shaving off bone spurs
- Resurfacing or revising your joint
- Joint effusion (increase your joint’s fluid)
- Totally replacing the joint
- Nerve surgery to the joint
Is my joint pain an emergency?
In several cases, you shouldn’t wait to have your joint seen by a doctor. In these cases, we encourage you to visit your local ER. Some of these concerning issues includes:10
- Sudden swelling that spreads quickly or impairs your breathing
- Inability to move your joints
- Fever of over 102℉ develops
- Sudden joint deformity and pain
- Signs of infection (fever, chills, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, red streaks, etc.)
- Stiffness or joint pain after a tick bite, strep throat, or scarlet fever
When should I make an appointment with a doctor?
If your joint pain is not an emergency, it’s still worth checking in with your doctor. Consider giving them a call if you’ve had any of the following:
- Trouble with your daily activities due to pain or poor joint movement
- Joint pain that lasts three or more days
- Chronic pain that has gotten worse
- Several joint pain episodes in the past month without a chronic condition
- Joint pain symptoms have been concerning you
We’re here to help
It’s important not to let joint pain get out of hand. Things may worsen and become harder to treat if left unassessed. If you’re considering nerve surgery for joint pain relief, Dr. Tollestrup would be happy to help you. Our office number is 702-505-8781. You can also fill out our New Patient Form.