Joint pain can be triggered by a ligament, bursae or tendon around the joint injury or illness (e.g., bursitis). Injury and/or disability can also influence the ligaments, cartilage and bones within the joint, leading to painful joint (e.g. systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis). Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (arthritis) and infection (for example, Lyme disease) and can be a feature of rare tumors of the joint (for example, pigmented villonodular synovitis) or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Facts on Joint Pain
- Joint pain can be caused by injury of the adjacent tissues or joint disease.
- A joint is the area at which two bone ends meet to provide motion to a body part. A typical joint is composed of bones that are separated by cartilage that serves as cushioning pad for the adjacent bones.
- Ligaments attach bone to bone around the joint.
- Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that provide a gliding surface for adjacent tendons.
- Tendons attach muscle to bone around the joint.
- Injury or disease to any of the structures of the joint can lead to pain in the joint.
- Joint pain is also referred to as arthralgia.
- Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain include morning stiffness, inflammation, and warmth.
What Are the Exams and Tests for Joint Pain?
The health care professional will take a history of your symptoms leading up to and associated with your joint pain. What activity(ies), if any, that you were doing when your joint pain symptoms began should be discussed. Aggravating and relieving conditions that affect the degree of your pain will also be important to discuss. After an examination, further testing might be necessary, including blood tests and X-rays or other imaging studies. Occasionally, MRI scanning is helpful if the problem requires further definition.
What Are Treatment Options for Joint Pain?
The treatment of joint pain is directed toward the precise underlying cause. If the problem is an injury, the initial treatment often includes rest, cold applications, and anti-inflammatory medications. Additional medications for pain control may or may not be required. Gradual rehabilitation physical therapy may be needed.
If the cause of the joint pain is arthritis-related, anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended, followed by other medications directed at the cause of the arthritis. If there is disease of the bone, ligament, or cartilage, surgical operation may be required.