10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Nagging Joint Pain, According to Doctors
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Whether you've overdone it on the tennis courts or typed way too much, there are many reasons why one or more of your joints might be in pain.
When you have joint pain, you are not alone. It is difficult to get exact numbers about how many people are struggling with the problem as it can be caused by a number of different causes. However, a national survey found that up to 30% of adults in the United States reported having had joint pain in the past 30 days.
Joint pain is defined as a discomfort to one or more of your joints, according to the US National Library of Medicine. While general pain is a common signal, you may also experience swelling, warmth, tenderness, redness, and pain from moving around the area.
If the cause of your discomfort is obvious, there is usually no need to panic (although you should still see a doctor if it doesn't go away). But what if your joints hurt and you have no idea why? Or do you also have other strange symptoms that you cannot explain?
On rare occasions, your joint pain can be a signal that something pretty serious is going on, such as a sexually transmitted disease or an autoimmune disease. However, in many cases, your joints are likely to be injured due to a more common problem. Here are some of the medical conditions that can make you sore, from common to rare.
1. You're just getting older.
You've been supporting your joints all your life, and that can hit them hard over time - especially with stressful joints like knees and hips, says Dr. Michael B. Gerhardt, sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. Cartilage, a gel-like substance that cushions your joints, also wears out over time, he says.
"Joint pain is very common as we get older," says Dr. Gerhardt. "Most of us, if lucky enough to live long enough, will develop joint pain."
In addition to your knees and hips, you can develop joint pain in your shoulders over time. "Often the source is repetitive lifting and reaching activities," says Gregory Gasbarro, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at the Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist, and Hand Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
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2. An older injury causes problems again.
An injury earlier in your life - whether treated or untreated - can increase your risk of joint pain later, says Dr. Gas bar.
There are a few different ways this can be done, but problems like a ligament rupture, tendon problems, or a broken bone can lead to inflammation over time, says Dr. Gerhardt. While a doctor can help you manage the symptoms, they cannot go back in time and get rid of the injury. "For example, if you had a torn knee ligament in your twenties, you will be set for arthritis 10, 20, or 30 years later," he says.
3. You are dealing with bursitis.
Bursitis is the swelling of the bursa, a small bag filled with fluid that, according to the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders and Skin Diseases, acts like a cushion between a bone and other moving parts of the body such as muscles, tendons, or skin (NIAMS ).
Bursitis can cause swelling and pain in muscles, bones, and joints. Bursae are found in many parts of your body, but bursitis is most common on the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. "There is a high concentration of nerves in the bursa that cause pain when swelling and inflammation due to traumatic or overworked injury," says Dr. Gas bar.
You can also develop bursitis from an unrelated injury, such as: B. Limping after back pain, which can lead to bursitis in the knee or hip, says Dr. Gerhardt.
4. A thyroid problem could be the underlying problem.
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the back of your neck that makes hormones that control the amount of energy your body uses. These hormones affect many different functions in your body and make it possible to "keep your joints and muscles lubricated and healthy," says Dr. Gerhardt.
When you have an underactive thyroid, your thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones for your body to need. "This can adversely affect your joints and make you prone to joint discomfort or injury," says Dr. Gerhardt.
5. It could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different from the type of wear and tear (osteoarthritis) that usually develops with age.
RA is an autoimmune disease and is disproportionately aimed at women: of the more than 1.3 million people who have it, 75% are female. "It's worrying to see young patients," says Dr. Orrin Troum, a rheumatologist at the Providence Saint John Health Center in Santa Monica, California, her babies.
Tender, swollen joints and morning stiffness are classic RA symptoms. You may also have fatigue, a fever, or weight loss that you cannot explain.
While not all of these causes of joint pain can be cured, they can be treated. Some require treatment with antibiotics or other prescription drugs. Others can improve on their own with time and calm. But persistent pain in your joints should be reason enough to check with your GP. They will likely refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis, to make sure you are getting the correct diagnosis and treatment that you (and your aching joints) need.
6. Or it could be infectious (septic) arthritis.
If you get a cut or stab wound and don't clean it well with soap and water, "a nearby joint can become infected with common bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus," says Dr. Troum. You will notice severe swelling and pain in the area, and fever and chills may follow.
Knees are the most common joint affected, but the hips, ankles, and wrists are also likely targets. You may need IV antibiotics, and your doctor may need to drain fluid from the infected joint. If left untreated, septic arthritis can lead to full body sepsis, which can be fatal.
7. You may have gout.
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Protein is an incredibly important nutrient in helping you stay full, build muscle, and feel energized - but you can have too much good.
"When you eat too much protein, your body makes a lot of uric acid and can't get all of it out of your body," said Luga Podesta, M.D., Florida sports medicine specialist and regenerative orthopedic specialist. "This causes an intense inflammatory response."
It's called gout and is one of the most painful types of arthritis you can experience. Symptoms of gout, such as heat, swelling, redness, and hard-to-ignore pain, often appear in your big toe first and then spread to other joints.
Protein overload isn't the only risk factor. Drinking too much alcohol or sugary drinks, becoming dehydrated, or taking certain types of medication (such as beta blockers) can also lead to gout. If you carry too much weight you are also at risk.
8. Lyme disease could be lurking.
Every year 30,000 people are bitten by a tick that carries it
Borrelia burgdorferi or Borrelia mayonii bacteria that cause Lyme disease. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe the real number is much higher - up to 300,000.
"The tick snaps into your skin to suck blood out of your body, but its head has an infection that gets into your bloodstream," explains Dr. Podesta. Early symptoms of Lyme include fatigue, fever, headache, and in many cases a bullseye-shaped rash. "Even so, it can be difficult to make a diagnosis unless you are in an area where ticks are endemic," says Dr. Podesta.
If you don't find out that you have Lyme disease to treat it, the bacteria can spread to your joints, especially your knees. You can also develop neck stiffness and sore hands and feet. Over time, your heart and nervous system can also be affected.
9. It could be a symptom of lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. "Can destroy all joints if left untreated," says Dr. Troum. People with lupus have an overactive immune system that can mistakenly attack joints, skin, blood, kidneys and other organs.
Along with swollen, painful joints, you can develop a butterfly-shaped rash over your cheeks, but the symptoms are different for everyone. Hair loss, difficulty breathing, memory problems, mouth pain, and dry eyes and mouth can also be signs of lupus.
10. Gonorrhea could be to blame.
This sexually transmitted disease (STD) doesn't just affect your genitals. It can also destroy your joints as it causes a painful condition called gonococcal arthritis. It affects women more than men and is surprisingly most common in sexually active teenage girls.
If you have it, you can develop a hot, red, swollen joint (although some people have multiple painful large joints) along with other STD symptoms, says Dr. Troum. This may include a burning sensation when urinating, and penile discharge or increased vaginal discharge.
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