Causes of chronic joint pain
Why do joints hurt in the first place? A lot happens in the spaces where the 2 bones meet. Joints are often covered with smooth cartilage to reduce the forces generated by standing, walking, climbing, or more intense physical activities. There are also ligaments, synovial fluid, and bursae to help with smooth movement and to keep the area lubricated. Joint pain occurs when inflammation or damage occurs to any components that make up a joint. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an issue in order to trigger healing, but chronic inflammation leads to long-term pain. Damage to the cartilage, ligament, bone, or synovial fluid can also lead to chronic joint pain. There are several causes of this pain, including arthritis, autoimmune diseases, fractures, ligament injuries, and bone cancer. Here are 3 myths that often arise concerning chronic joint pain.
1. Pain is a normal part of aging
Statistics show that up to 70% of American adults over 50 have some form of chronic joint pain. Therefore, a common misconception is that pain in the joints is inevitable. However, this is far from the truth. Yes, the risk of joint pain increases with age, but most people will not experience chronic pain. Many adults go through life without chronic joint pain. Causes and risk factors for developing chronic joint pain include smoking, poor diet, and pre-existing health conditions. The best option is to see a doctor to determine the root cause rather than hold the belief that the issue is simply aging.
2. Stop exercising
Chronic pain often comes with additional symptoms such as stiffness, limited range of motion (ROM), and joint swelling. Many joint pain sufferers believe the best option is to keep still and not move the joints. While there is some benefit in short rest periods, remaining sedentary will worsen the pain. Joint pain is often due to underuse, not overuse. A car or machine that is not used will become stiff and rusty over time. The same goes for the joints in the body. Daily movement or exercise reduces pain, increases flexibility, and strengthens the surrounding muscles.
3. There is no cure
Most people believe chronic joint pain is here to stay and must be managed for life. However, this is a myth that can be debunked. Yes, some lifelong conditions are incurable, so the first step is to find the reason for chronic pain. Once the root cause is revealed, a pain or joint specialist can provide options to reduce or eliminate joint pain, including pain medication, physical therapy (PT), and regenerative medication. Steroid injections, massage, and acupuncture also produce excellent results. In some cases, surgery, such as a total joint replacement, can be the best solution. These options and lifestyle changes like improved diet and exercise should help improve daily function.
Can a specialist help?
Chronic joint pain can be debilitating, leaving people with the condition suffering for months or even years. If the pain severely limits the movement of the joint, see a doctor or specialist immediately. Additionally, if non-surgical options fail to bring relief, schedule a visit with the pain specialist. The specialist will perform tests, confirm the diagnosis, and administer treatment. Take control of joint pain, and don’t believe the many myths surrounding this manageable condition.