Joint pain can have many causes, including arthritis, muscle pain and bursitis. Whether caused by injury or illness, joint pain can impact your ability to move comfortably and function freely.
Causes of joint pain
- overuse, such as strains, tears or sprains
- injuries, such as fractures
- bursitis, inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion muscles and tendons from bones
- gout, especially in the big toe
- septic arthritis, inflammation due to bacterial infection
- autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- infectious diseases, including:
- rheumatic fever
- Epstein-Barr virus
- chicken pox (varicella)
Caring for joint pain
Arthritis is the most common cause of joint pain. Many doctors recommend exercise to help relieve arthritis pain and promote flexibility. Your doctor can help you plan the right workout for your body. You will probably start with simple exercises that help increase your range of motion and strength, gradually working up to more intense exercises. Ask your doctor if you should avoid any specific movements.
Some arthritis patients find pain relief from over-the-counter pain relievers, warm baths, cold or hot packs and electric blankets. Therapies such as acupuncture, massage, relaxation and biofeedback can also be helpful (link to Integrative Medicine?). If you are overweight, losing weight may help ease your symptoms. Discuss your pain relief plans with your doctor.
When to seek outside help
If you have any of the following symptoms, contact a medical professional to rule out serious illness:
- fever without other flu symptoms
- joint pain that lasts longer than three days
- unexplained weight loss
- severe joint pain that does not result from injury
Your doctor will ask you questions about your joint pain, other symptoms and medical history. You may undergo diagnostic tests such as x-rays or blood tests to determine the cause of your joint pain.