Joint Pain: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Joint Pain: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

March 30, 2018

Why Do My Joints Hurt? Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Joint pain is caused by a range of potential illnesses and injuries — or even changes in your body as you age. While joint pain is often associated with older individuals, it can impact people of any age, including children. It can range from mildly irritating to debilitating, but is often manageable via medications, physical therapy and alternative medications.

In the fitness world, there are a lot of celebs and workout pros on social media, making their hardcore workouts seems effortless. What a lot of these people don't show is the after-effects of the workout. Regardless of what's shown to the world on Instagram, muscle pain and soreness affect almost everyone engaged in moderate exercise. 

Common Causes of Joint Pain

Joint pain often indicates damage, inflammation or disease at the specific site, but it’s also a symptom of chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia.

Some common causes of pain in your joints can include:

  • Injuries such as broken bones, dislocations, sprains or strains and tendonitis
  • Arthritis of any type, including gout, psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis, which is inflammation in one or more joints
  • Dysfunction in the nervous system that can lead to chronic regional pain syndrome
  • Blood flow issues that lead to damaged or dead bone tissue
  • Conditions such as hyperthyroidism, lupus, leukemia, rickets and osteoarthritis

Issues that lead to joint pain are very prevalent in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 22.7 percent of American adults were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, lupus, gout or arthritis between 2013 and 2015, and the CDC expects 26 percent of all adults in the U.S. to have a diagnosis of arthritis by 2040.

Risk Factors for Joint Pain

With so many possible reasons for joint pain, it’s hard to define specific risk factors. Most people do become more susceptible to these issues as they age. Genetics can put you at greater risk for conditions such as systemic lupus erythematous and ankylosing spondylitis, both of which can cause joint pain. The CDC also notes that gender plays some role; women are slightly more at risk for arthritis while men are more at risk for gout.

Other factors that can increase the likelihood you’ll suffer joint pain include:

  • Previous injuries to the joint, such as sports injuries
  • Microbial infections in the joints
  • Being overweight
  • Working in an occupation that involves repetitive motion of the knees or other joints

When to See a Professional About Joint Pain

While joint pain isn’t typically an emergency and can be managed at home — especially if you have a diagnosis associated with this type of pain and expect it as a symptom — sometimes you need more extensive treatment.

If your pain is accompanied by warmth, tenderness, swelling or redness at the joint, then call your healthcare provider to make an appointment. If your pain is so bad you can’t move the joint at all, you notice sudden, marked swelling or the joint looks deformed, then consider seeking emergency medical attention.

Prevention and Treatment of Joint Pain

Your medical provider might prescribe medications or physical therapy to help treat your joint pain, but there are also steps you can take at home.

Always discuss home and alternative remedies you explore with your doctor to ensure they won’t have any negative consequences on other conditions.

Some things you can do to reduce joint pain or prevent issues from flaring up include:

  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen sodium to reduce pain associated with swelling
  • Taking acetaminophen for pain not associated with swelling
  • Applying topical creams, such as CopperGel, to reduce the pain
  • Covering the joint with a wrap or brace to protect it from overuse or extended motions or to hold it in a proper position
  • Applying ice to the area for 15 minutes a few times each day
  • Relaxing the joint with heat via a heating pad or warm bath or shower
  • Soaking in Epsom salts to reduce inflammation
  • Reducing foods that can lead to inflammation, such as sugar

Joint pain is a reality for many Americans of all ages, but you don’t have to face it daily without taking action. Talk to your healthcare provider about what joint pain means for you, and take actions at home to prevent flare-ups.