Identifying the cause of joint pain
A joint forms where two or more bones meet in your skeleton. Some joints stay fixed in place, like the ones in your skull. But most joints can move, like the ones in your hips, legs, and shoulders.
The ends of your moveable joints have a coating of cartilage that protects the joint, creates mobility, and keeps the bones from grating together. Your joints also get support, stability, and mobility from surrounding connective tissue, like muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
When you have joint pain, it can develop if any of the components in or around your joint become damaged or diseased. Common causes of joint pain include:
- Sprains and strains
In most cases, arthritis is the leading cause of joint pain. More specifically, osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis — often referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis — develops over time as the cartilage cushioning the joint degenerates. This deterioration creates bone-on-bone contact, which leads to pain, swelling, stiffness, and more cartilage degeneration.
Joint pain symptoms you should ignore
Even though many people experience joint pain, you shouldn’t put off seeing a doctor. You need an evaluation even more urgently if you have joint pain after an injury or from an unknown cause.
If you’ve received an arthritis diagnosis, then you know what’s causing your joint pain. Even so, arthritis is a progressive condition, meaning it worsens over time. Signs that your arthritis may be more serious include:
- Swelling or redness
- Worsening pain
- Decreasing the range of motion
- Changing or deformity of the joint
Whether you have joint pain from an acute injury or a chronic condition, ignoring your symptoms won’t make them go away. In fact, delaying your treatment can make your problem worse, and you could lose control of the joint.
Finding relief for joint pain
Dr. Nair is an experienced physician board-certified in integrative medicine and interventional pain management. Whenever possible, he starts with the most conservative treatments first, such as:
- Oral medications
- Joint injections containing anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications
- Epidural steroids
- Sympathetic nerve blocks
- Cervical and lumbar facet joint blocks
- Physical therapy and at-home exercises
For joint pain causing nearby nerve compression, Dr. Nair may also recommend radiofrequency ablation. This therapy involves applying heat to the affected nerve to block pain signals to your brain.