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Joint Pain Overview: Causes, Misconceptions, Treatment and Recovery

Posted by Michal Szczodry, MD on February 13, 2017

Joint-Pain-Overview-Causes-Misconceptions-Treatment-and-Recovery.jpgJoint pain is defined as discomfort arising from the tissues involved in connecting two or more bones in the human body.

Joint pain is incredibly common: In one study of people over the age of 40, more than 70 percent of women and 65 percent of men reported having some type of joint pain within the last 12 months, with hip and knee being the most commonly affected joints.

Contrary to what many joint pain sufferers believe, relief is possible! Joint pain can be successfully treated – regardless of age – through non-surgical and surgical means, at home and/or in conjunction with an orthopedic medical team.

Treatment Goals

When at-home treatments have not worked to provide joint pain relief, it’s important for patients to seek professional medical care

Orthopedic surgeons and other specialists see thousands of joint pain cases each year and prescribe a full range of treatment options based on each individual’s case. Seeing a doctor doesn’t mean that you have to have surgery. That typically comes up as an alternative after multiple steps of non-surgical treatment. And, if patients are ever offered an operation, there are many minimally invasive surgical options that are short of full joint replacement.

The goals of any joint pain treatment plan are simple: to decrease pain and increase mobility. 

Joint Pain Causes 

Joint pain can come from either an injury or various types of arthritis.

There are three chief causes of joint pain:

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common cause of joint pain. Although it is commonly called “wear and tear” disease, medical professionals still aren’t sure what causes osteoarthritis. It’s likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as the strenuousness of everyday activities, patients’ weight, diet, etc.

Traumatic joint pain is caused by either direct or indirect injury to the joint that can be inflicted during a simple fall, accident, sports activities, etc.

Inflammatory arthritis is usually a systemic condition that affects multiple joints in the body and causes tissues to be inflamed and painful.

Biggest Misconceptions

There are nearly as many theories about what causes joint pain as there are people who experience it. In addition to understanding the truths about joint pain, it’s important to examine some ideas that have been proven false.

 

The nine biggest misconceptions about joint pain are:

1) People can get osteorthritis from cold weather or cold water. Cold temperatures may increase pain, but cold weather and cold water are not factors that cause osteoarthritis.

2) Only elderly people get osteoarthritis or joint pain. Joint pain doesn’t discriminate based on age. While osteoarthritis and joint pain are more common in people over a certain age, people of all ages can be affected.  

3) People should just accept ever-increasing pain, and there’s nothing that can be done. Joint pain is not a condition that just has to be lived with. There are a range of treatment options available, up to and including surgery.

4) Opiate medications are a viable solution for joint pain. Opiate medications are not a recommended treatment option for joint pain.

5) Knuckle cracking will lead to osteoarthritis in the hands. There is no correlation between cracking of the knuckles and osteoarthritis.

6) It doesn’t matter who does the surgery to relieve joint pain. Orthopedic surgeons specialize in joint pain-relieving surgeries, and picking an experienced orthopedic surgeon who consistently achieves good outcomes for their patients is essential.

7) Joint replacement is only for old people. The treatment options to relieve joint pain are highly individualized and are developed based on patient-related factors, regardless of age. Not every elderly patient will have joint replacement, and not all joint replacement candidates are elderly.

8) Patients should wait until they can’t walk or are severely impaired before having surgery. Patients who can’t walk should seek immediate medical attention. In general, patients whose mobility is affected should not delay seeing a specialist.

9) Joint replacement surgery will result in debilitating pain until recovery. While no surgical procedure is painless, orthopedic surgeons are constantly developing new techniques and approaches to reduce the pain related to joint replacement. Patients generally find that the pain is worse right after surgery and improves significantly over time. 

A Path to Recovery

Diagnosing the causes of joint pain and working with patients on comprehensive treatment plans are what orthopedic specialists have been trained to do. Before giving up or resigning themselves to surgery, patients should seek an expert opinion. Together, orthopedic specialists and patients can develop a path to recovery.

 

Complete Guide to Joint Pain

Topics: Joint Pain

About the author: Michal Szczodry, MD

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Michal Szczodry is an orthopedic specialist in surgical and non-surgical treatment of spine conditions. He graduated from Medical University of Warsaw, Poland; completed a research fellowship at University of Pittsburgh; did his orthopedic residency at University of Illinois at Chicago; and obtained subspecialty training in spine at Johns Hopkins University.