The Importance Of Getting A Diagnosis For Joint Pain – Flexiseq

The Importance Of Getting A Diagnosis For Joint Pain


There are many potential causes for joint pain, and it’s important to get to the bottom of it so you can have the best chance of managing your symptoms. Some types of joint pain may be caused by repetitive movement or injury and may go away with home remedies and stretching exercises, but it is important not to ignore pain, which is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, in case the underlying condition becomes worse. It is therefore sensible to get a proper, professional diagnosis and treatment plan for any persistent pain. 

What causes joint pain?

Joints are parts of the body where two or more bones meet. There are different kinds of joints: some provide structural support for your skeleton, while others help you move.  

“Joint pain can be caused by several different conditions, but what we see most frequently is joint pain coming from arthritis and different kinds of arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Pontinen, a certified anesthesiologist, interventional pain management specialist and co-founder and physician at Midwest Anesthesia and Pain Specialists. “That said, we also see cases of joint pain coming from injuries and trauma such as sprains, tears, and fractures to the tissues in the joint. Even simply overusing a joint can cause it to become irritated and painful. Other conditions like gout, infections, and autoimmune diseases can also cause or contribute to joint pain.”

So what could be causing your joint pain?

Osteoarthritis

Our joints are protected by cartilage, which is a strong, flexible connective tissue that stops the bones rubbing together and acts as a shock absorber. Osteoarthritis is when this cartilage is worn down, which can lead to friction, inflammation and pain. The human body has around 350 joints and almost all of these can be affected by osteoarthritis, although it is most commonly found in knees, hips and hands. It’s important to get a diagnosis for osteoarthritis so you can create a tailored treatment plan with your GP and learn more about your condition to help you manage it. 

Rheumatoid arthritis

Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the cells around the joints, causing inflammation, pain and stiffness. Getting an early diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis is really important because getting it treated quickly can prevent it from getting worse and stop potential damage to the joints. 

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden, severe joint pain. It often affects the big toe, but can also affect other joints. Gout can also cause hot, swollen red skin over the affected joint. An attack of gout can last for up to two weeks if untreated, and not getting treatment for gout can result in further attacks.

Lupus

Lupus is a long term autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and rashes that usually come out after you’ve been in the sun. Lupus can also cause swollen glands, headaches, mouth ulcers, a high temperature, weight loss, chest and stomach pain, anxiety and depression.  Seeking a diagnosis for lupus as soon as possible is crucial, because if left untreated lupus can permanently scar your kidneys. Lupus can also be hard to diagnose as it often looks like other autoimmune conditions, so starting the process of getting a diagnosis as soon as you suspect you might have it can ensure you get on the path towards getting the help you need more quickly. 

Bursitis

Your joints are cushioned by fluid filled sacs called bursa, which helps reduce friction during movement. Bursitis is when these sacs become inflamed which can cause pain, swelling and loss of mobility around the affected joints. It’s important to see a doctor if you suspect bursitis so they can check which treatments (which sometimes involve antibiotics if your bursa is infected) will help your specific situation. 

Strains and strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries which can usually be treated at home without having to see a GP. It’s likely to be a sprain if the area is tender, weak and painful, the injury is swollen or bruised, you cannot put weight on it or use it in the way you were able to before the strain, or you are experiencing muscle cramping or spasms. 

Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is pain caused by repetitive movements in parts of the body, e.g. by typing all day at a keyboard. RSI usually affects the shoulders, elbows, wrists, forearms, hands and fingers, but it can affect other areas too. Symptoms can include a burning, aching or throbbing sensation, stiffness, weakness, tingling, numbness, pins and needles, swelling and muscle cramps. RSI can usually be treated by taking a break from the repetitive activity, doing stretching exercises and taking over the counter pain relief.

What can you do about joint pain?

“For less severe joint pain situations, try to rest and apply home treatments like over-the-counter painkillers, ice, hot soaks, and creams,” says  Dr. Pontinen. “But if these solutions do not help - or if things fail to improve on their own - then it’s time to see a doctor.”

If you think you have a sprain, follow the PRICE method for a few days to treat the injury at home.

  • P: Protect the Injury
  • R: Rest. Take a break from exercise and avoid putting pressure on the injury.
  • I: Ice. Apply an ice pack to the injury.
  • C: Compression. Wrap a bandage around the injured area during the day.
  • E: Elevate. Keep the injured area lifted as much as possible.

Pharmacists should be able to help by giving you creams, ointment or appropriate pain medication. Most sprains and strains get better within 2 weeks, although severe injuries can take months to completely heal. If you have a strain which is getting worse or you’ve had it for a while, speak to your doctor who may refer you to a physiotherapist or carry out tests to rule out underlying causes. 

 When to seek medical help?

Knowing the cause of your pain can be crucial in stopping the condition progressing, as well as being informed about any lifestyle adjustments and medications which can help you manage your symptoms. 

“Severe and persisting pain should always be addressed by a doctor preferably sooner rather than later,” says Dr. Pontinen. “Pain indicates that something in the body needs to be addressed, so if you’re dealing with chronic pain or pain that worsens rather than improves, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor. Other signs you need medical attention include persistent swelling, redness, and warmth around the joint because these can suggest an underlying disease or infection. Joint deformity or restricted mobility and function are also red flags – your goal should be to get back your life as quickly as possible and address, manage, and prevent the pain.”

“Considering the variety of potential causes there might be for a case of joint pain, it’s incredibly important to get a proper diagnosis by a qualified physician,” says Dr. Pontinen.  “Understanding the actual cause of your pain is the first step in treatment, and it can also save you plenty of grief from unnecessary treatment, suffering, and wasted time. The importance of an effective diagnosis process can’t be overstated. Getting a diagnosis for joint pain sooner rather than later is often a great idea because certain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can worsen with time if not properly addressed. Pain management is only becoming more effective and accessible with each passing day, so time spent suffering is time that could otherwise be spent healing and getting your quality of life back.”

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