Aching Joints Causes
Before you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan for your pain, it’s good to have an understanding of how your aching joints began - where did the pain come from? First, identify the pain. There are two major categories of pain. Pain can be short term, known as acute pain, or long-term, known as chronic pain.
- Acute pain is a severe or sudden pain that resolves within a certain amount of time. You might feel acute pain when you have an illness, injury or surgery.1
- Chronic pain is persistent, lasting for months or even longer. Chronic pain is considered a health condition in itself.1
When it comes to pain in your body, it’s important to be able to know and describe what kind of pain you’re experiencing. According to the Mayo Clinic, “With acute pain, you typically know exactly where and why it hurts. Your elbow burns after a scrape or you feel pain at the site of a surgical incision. Acute pain is triggered by tissue damage. Its purpose is to alert you to injury and protect you from further harm. With chronic pain, you might not know the reason for the pain. For example, an injury has healed, yet the pain remains — and might even become more intense. Chronic pain can also occur without any indication of an injury or illness.” 1
Musculoskeletal pain, such as joint pain, is the most common type of chronic pain. And, unfortunately, joint pain is extremely common. According to a national survey, roughly 30% of adults reported experiencing joint pain within a 30 day span.3 There are many conditions that can lead to sore joints including: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains, and more.2
Arthritis is the most common cause of sore joints in adults. Based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, roughly 52.5 million, or 22.7%, of adults have self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and 22.7 million, or 9.8%, have arthritis and arthritis-attributable limitations to their activity.3 It is estimated that by the year 2030, 1 in every 4 adults, or roughly 64 million, will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.3 Musculoskeletal issues are very common but are also serious and should be attended to. Even if your pain isn’t chronic, short-term inflammation can negatively affect your lifestyle and quality of life.
Different Types of Arthritis That Cause Aching Joints
Degenerative Arthritis/OsteoarthritisDegenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, is a chronic disease that is also described as “wear and tear” arthritis because it breaks down the tissues surrounding the joint8 - which can lead to a lot of soreness and pain. Degenerative arthritis as it increases with age and affects nearly all people in some way by age 80.8 It occurs most frequently in patients over the age of 60. Symptomatic osteoarthritis affects about 27 million adults in the United States.3 If you are experiencing pain in your knees, hands or hips - these are common sites of pain with osteoarthritis.
GoutPreviously referenced as a cause for joint pain, gout is a crystal-related arthritis and is now the most common form of inflammatory arthritis.3 Gout presents itself as short-term painful flares that go away and come back again. Following the pain is a warm feeling, swelling, red discoloration, and tenderness.4 It is caused by the build up of uric acid in your joints. The small joint at the base of the big toe is the most common site for an attack. Other areas common for gout are wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, and fingers. The pain experienced with gout can be mild to very severe. Even as severe as the lightest touch of the infected site can be incredibly painful.
Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis, more commonly known as RA, is well-known, highly talked about form of arthritis. In fact, it’s the most common form of an autoimmune systemic inflammatory arthritis.3 Meaning, it brings on swelling and sore joints. How RA works: the joints in your body are surrounded by a thin protective tissue called synovium. In addition to protecting the joint, the synovium has to keep the joints loose and comfortable by secreting a fluid lubricant. If you have RA, then your immune system mistakenly attacks the joints which leads to the synovium swelling. This leads to a flare up of intense inflammation and pain.5
The largest group of RA sufferers tends to be women between the ages of 30 and 60. The symptoms of RA can be severe and usually affects the wrists, ankles, elbows, or knees.5
Aching Joints Remedies
While arthritis is the most common cause of aching joints, there are other causes and it’s important to pinpoint why your joints hurt. Regardless, whatever the cause of sore joints, you can usually manage it with medication, physical therapy, or alternative treatments. Speak with a medical professional before trying any combination of medications or treatments.
Your doctor will first try to diagnose and treat the condition that is causing your joint pain. The goal is to reduce pain and inflammation, and preserve joint function.2
MedicationsThere are many kinds of over-the-counter medication options when it comes to trying to reduce the effects of the symptoms of joint pain. A trigger of the pain is the swelling so an anti-inflammatory is imperative to reduce the swelling in your joints and that will relieve the pain as well. Some common anti-inflammatory medications include Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Advil, and Aleve. If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe medication for the pain that should be taken as prescribed.
Natural RemediesIf taking pills isn’t something that you’d like to include in your daily routine, there are some other natural options for treating pain. Here are three common natural remedies to try for your joint pain:
1. Low-Impact ActivityWhile exercise seems counterintuitive to easing the pain, working out the joints that hurt can actually bring you some relief. This is because exercise can help to break up the build of acid in your joints relieving some of the swelling. One common low-impact exercise is water aerobics. A review in the journal Physical Therapy found that “exercising in water reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with osteoarthritis of the lower limbs.” 6 Another study found that a 45-minute aquatic circuit training session helped relieve the pain of osteoarthritis in the knee.
2. Topical CreamsSome types of topical creams include a substance called Capsaicin - known for being responsible for the heat in hot pepper. This ingredient temporarily use up substance P which is a chemical in the brain that stimulates pain receptors. This will redirect nerves so you don’t feel the pain in that joint. According to a study from Case Western Reserve University, 80% of people with osteo or RA had less pain after using a cream with capsaicin 4 times a day for two days.
3. SupplementsVitamins and supplements have long been used to enhance our current health plan. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, when taken together, have been found to reduce the pain onset by osteoarthritis.6 Other supplements that could help pain include:7
- Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
- Ginger Extract
Joint pain is very common among adults and can range from mild to severe. If you’re experiencing pain in your joints, it’s important to keep track of where it hurts, how often it hurts, and what the pain is like. Also, take note of outside factors such as your level of activity and any current injuries you may have endured. Once you have a good idea of your pain, go see your medical professional. Be honest about your symptoms and your lifestyle. They will work with you to create a healthcare plan that will aim to reduce the swelling and pain and maintain mobility and your quality of life. While pain is uncomfortable, fortunately, it is manageable.