Joint Pain, Other Symptoms, and Joint Pain Explained
You might not pay much attention to your joints until they hurt. Suddenly one morning, just getting out of bed hurts. Maybe your elbow gets sore when you play tennis. Or you feel pain when typing on the keyboard at work.
The pain can be subtle. Or it can suddenly overpower your life, making movement difficult and bearing any sort of weight excruciating. Joint pain can appear as discomfort, pain, or inflammation from any part of a joint such, as cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons, or muscles.
Inflammation, in fact, almost always accompanies joint pain. With inflammation, your body responds to injury or infection by releasing chemicals into your blood and the affected tissue.
Besides redness, warmth, and swelling, the inflammatory process can stimulate nerves and create pain.
White blood cells mobilize to the scene of the crime: In this case, an injured or infected joint. Irritation, wearing down of cartilage, and swelling of your joint lining can result.
Stiffness and soreness are signs of inflammation. Flu-like symptoms including fatigue, fever, chills, and muscle stiffness can also indicate inflammation.
What is a Joint?
Joints connect bones. They link your skeletal system so your body can function. Depending on where they are located, joints allow different degrees and types of movement.
Some joints, like the suture joints in your skull, don’t move at all and are fixed. Others may move a little, such as your vertebrae. Other joints that move include your neck, shoulders, wrist, knees, and elbows.
Types of Joint Pain
Disease or injury to any joint can impede movement and create pain. If you struggle with joint pain, you’re not alone. About one-third of adults reported joint pain within the past 30 days in one survey.
Knee pain was most common, followed by shoulder and hip pain. But joint pain can impact any part of your body. And with age, the risk for injury and experiencing pain becomes more common.
Most often, joint pain refers to arthritis. It might also appear as arthralgia, or inflammation and pain from within the joint. This pain can be caused by:
That ouch feeling when you move is a sure sign of joint pain. Other signs and symptoms of unhealthy joints include: redness, stiffness, weakness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth. So are limping, losing range of motion, and that awful feeling when your joint locks.
Pain, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in your joints coupled with morning stiffness that lasts over an hour could be signs of rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis.
With inflammatory arthritis, your immune system doesn’t work correctly. It releases inflammatory chemicals that attack your joints. The immune attack creates swelling, increased joint fluid, damage to cartilage and bone, and muscle loss. Those symptoms activate nerves in your joints, creating pain.
In other words, infection or injury in one joint can impact your entire body.
How to Help Reduce Joint Pain
Depending on its severity, you might be able to manage mild joint pain at home. But if swelling, redness, tenderness, and warmth surround the joint, you should go see your healthcare practitioner.
Joint deformity, intense pain, sudden swelling, and not being able to use a joint are other signs to consult a healthcare practitioner immediately.
How your healthcare practitioner handles your joint pain depends on the type of disease, your age, overall health, medical history, and how severe your symptoms are.
Diagnosing your condition early and finding ways to treat it — including lowering inflammation — can limit joint damage and reduce the symptoms of joint pain. The overriding goal for treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation while supporting joint function.
During your visit, your healthcare practitioner will conduct a complete medical history and physical exam. He or she will evaluate your joint symptoms as well as other symptoms that might occur. They might also do X-rays, blood tests, or other types of evaluations to determine what causes your joint pain.
Some healthcare practitioners use over-the-counter and pharmaceutical drugs to treat the symptoms of joint pain and inflammation. Some of them, such as analgesics, can reduce pain, but not inflammation.
Others, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), help manage inflammation, but create side effects such as stomach pain and ulcers.
Chiropractic Care for Joint Pain and Inflammation – The Natural, Anti-inflammation Therapy
Chiropractic care can complement conventional treatments for joint pain and offer safe alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs.
Not getting quality sleep, physically demanding work, a sedentary lifestyle, overly strenuous exercise, and poor breathing can impact your spine. What impacts your spine also affects your entire body, and joint pain is no exception.
Chiropractic adjustments can reduce the restrictions or misalignments in your spine and other joints. With adjustments, chiropractors use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. Adjustments can improve spinal motion and improve your body’s physical function.
Chiropractors can help address the pain and inflammation that joint pain creates. One study found that nine adjustments helped normalize inflammation for people suffering from chronic low back pain.
The study was small — only 21 participants — and only took place for two weeks. However, it showed great promise to normalize inflammatory markers that can create pain and discomfort in your spine but also other joints.
Chiropractors can also address other factors that contribute to joint pain and inflammation. Poor posture, for instance, can place unnatural stress on parts of the spine, leading to soreness and pain in your back and elsewhere.
Even if you visit your chiropractor for another concern — such as back pain — you may notice areas such as your joints feel better. That’s because an adjustment removes the interference to support oxygenation, nervous system integrity, and nutrients that can impact how your body functions.
Chiropractors can also help you design a plan that works for your unique health condition. She or he may suggest specific foods and the type of exercise that is best for you to support joint health that reduce pain and inflammation.
Discuss including these and/or any other health practices with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.
Other Natural Ways to Reduce Joint Pain
Working with your chiropractor and other healthcare practitioners can help reduce the pain and inflammation that accompanies joint pain. They can also address the underlying causes that create those symptoms.
But how you eat and live on a day-to-day basis can improve joint health. To reduce the pain and inflammation that often go with joint pain, incorporate these five strategies into your health routine.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. The best way to lower joint pain and inflammation is at the end of your fork. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds including walnuts and flaxseeds, extra-virgin olive oil, and fatty fish. You’ll find many of these foods in our Core and Advanced Nutrition Plans. Be sure to remove the foods that cause inflammation too, including refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and vegetable oils like corn oil.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet. Finding your goal weight and staying there can decrease pain, improve mobility, and prevent damage to your joints.
- Get consistent exercise. Staying active helps you maintain a healthy weight, but regular fitness also supports joint flexibility. If working out or even walking fast feels impossible with joint pain, consider low-impact, low-joint stress exercises like water aerobics or swimming.
- Incorporate hot and cold therapy. You can ease mild joint pain — and reduce the symptoms of more severe joint pain — in the comfort of your own home. Apply ice or frozen vegetables to painful joints 15 – 20 minutes several times each day. To relax muscles and increase circulation, apply a heating pad, soak in a hot bath, or take a warm shower. At night, use an electric blanket or moist heating pad to support achy joints.
- Get the right supplements. Research shows certain nutrients can help improve the pain, inflammation, and other symptoms of joint pain while supporting healthy joints. Among the best-studied ones include:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin, both components of healthy cartilage, can help reduce joint pain and reduce function.
- Magnesium, a workhorse mineral that helps strengthen bones, maintain nerve and muscle function, supports joint cartilage, and helps you relax.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce morning stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and discomfort associated with joint pain while increasing blood flow. Researchers recommend one to three grams of EPA and DHA — the two primary omega-3 fatty acids — to get these and other benefits.
- The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can improve the symptoms of joint arthritis.
Discuss including these and/or any other supplements with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.
A little bit of joint stiffness is normal. As you get older, that discomfort can increase. For some situations, moving around and increasing circulation can help. So can home remedies like warm baths and a heating pad.
But joint stiffness and pain can also be a result of an underlying condition. Address these symptoms with your healthcare practitioner. With the right strategies, you can relieve joint pain and inflammation to live a healthy, active life at any age.