Joints form the connections between bones, and they’re composed of all the tissues necessary for movement and support — ligaments, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. Damage to a joint, either from disease or injury, can cause weakness, instability, and a lot of pain. And joint pain is common: in a national survey, about one-third of US adults reported experiencing joint pain within the previous 30 days.
At Lake Family Medicine & Imaging in Sanford, Florida, general practitioner Dr. Raj Kandavanam and his team see a lot of joint problems in their office, from orthopedic injuries, overuse, and a result of aging. They offer on-site imaging and lab services to aid with diagnosis and treatment, making them a one-stop medical operation for all your joint needs. Here’s what they want you to know about the causes of joint pain.
Who Experiences Joint Pain?
Joint pain tends to affect people who:
- Had a previous injury to a joint
- Repeatedly use and/or overuse a muscle (i.e., sports, repetitive motion jobs)
- Have chronic medical conditions
- Suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or stress
- Are overweight or obese
- Have poor overall health
- Are middle-aged or older
The Most Common Causes of Joint Pain
Many different conditions can lead to joint pain. The knees are the most commonly affected, followed by the shoulders and hips, but pain can strike any joint, including your ankles, feet, hands, and spine. The most common causes of pain include:
Arthritis is a catch-all term used to describe over 100 different joint conditions. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), followed by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout.
OA is a wear-and-tear disease, caused by gradual deterioration of the joint’s protective cartilage from years of use. As the cartilage wears away, the bones can grate against each other, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.
RA, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder; your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s own cells, causing chronic inflammation, pain, and often, joint deformity. In addition to your joints, the disease can affect your heart, lungs, eyes, and blood vessels.
Gout is a third type of arthritis, which results when uric acid crystals collect in the joint space, usually in your big toe, causing swelling and pain.
Tendinitis is a condition where the tendons, tissues that connect your muscles to your bones, become inflamed. It’s often caused by repetitive activities and can be quite painful. The most common tendons affected are in the joints of the knee, elbow, shoulder, and hip, the Achilles tendon (heel), and the one at the base of the thumb.
Athletes are particularly at risk for tendinitis because they repeat movements again and again. As a result, some forms of the condition are named after specific sports: pitcher’s shoulder, tennis elbow, and jumper’s knee, for example.
Bursitis is another overuse condition. Your body contains small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae. They cushion areas where a bone would otherwise rub on tendons, muscles, or skin. By providing cushioning, they decrease friction and inflammation. If you overuse a joint or place undue pressure on it, the bursae may become inflamed and very painful, with the pain appearing suddenly or building up over time.
Orthopedic injuries can affect any part of your body, but they often affect the bones and connective tissues of your joints. These injuries may be acute, such as from a car accident or a fall, or they may develop from overuse, and they can cause a variable amount of pain. Some of the most common orthopedic injuries include:
- Sprained or strained ankles
- Joint dislocations
- Ligament or cartilage tears
- Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder)
Long-term health conditions can also contribute to joint pain. Diseases like fibromyalgia, lupus, and Lyme disease, for example, all include joint pain as a symptom.
Joint Pain Diagnosis and Treatments
Some joint pain is acute and temporary, and it can be completely eliminated with treatment. Other conditions have no cure, but we can help you manage the pain and other related symptoms. It all starts with an accurate diagnosis.
Dr. Kandavanam asks about your symptoms and lifestyle and reviews your medical history. If you’ve had an injury, he takes down the specifics of that, too. Then, he performs a physical exam, looking for areas of swelling, inflammation, and deformity, and examines your range of motion for the offending joint. He supplements the exam with laboratory tests and imaging studies to get a full picture of the problem and recommends treatment appropriate for what he finds, which can be anything from rest to OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to physical therapy to surgery.
If you’re experiencing joint pain, whether acute or chronic, give Lake Family Medicine & Imaging a call at 407-232-7655 to schedule an evaluation, or book your appointment online. We’re open M-W, 8 am-5 pm, with walk-ins welcome.