Causes of Joint Pain

Speaking of dislocations, – well I’m about to talk about them so bear with me – let me tell you my latest reason for getting bent out of shape.  I was watching the Today Show yesterday morning and almost threw up when I heard the teaser for the next story – “Watch out for moms who are bullies” or something like that.  I finished my 5 1/2 minute workout before the commercial ended so I didn’t actually see the segment yesterday.  But, I did spend the whole day thinking about the term “Bully Mom”.  Isn’t it bad enough we are expected to embrace such negative labels as Soccer Mom and Cougar?  If you think either of these is anything but derogatory, you need to check the year on your calendar and google feminism.  Isn’t it bad enough we are an entire generation of women who refer to ourselves in the third person?  Are we to also start using terms traditionally reserved for children and adolescents to describe adult women?  Be careful.  The next time you have a strong opinion about something, you might be accused of throwing a tantrum.  I just watched the “Bully Mom” segment on-line and it wasn’t bad … just misnamed.  There is a perfectly good word for women who gossip about, belittle and shun other women.  It rhymes with stitches.

Back to your bendy places.  Other than arthritis, what can cause joint pain?

1.  Injury – Dislocations can occur in your big joints and in your smaller joints.  They are usually associated with sudden pain and need to be “put back together” as quickly as possible.  Bone fractures can occur through a joint and, especially in children who still have growth plates at the ends of their bones, need special care.  Sprains occur when the ligament that connects two bones through a joint become torn or over-extended.  Strains are the same thing but on tendons – which connect muscle to bone – or on the muscles themselves.  They range in severity from just needing ice to needing surgery.

2.  Gout – Usually thought to occur only in men who drink a lot, post-menopausal women are also at risk for gout.  It is a sudden and extremely painful swelling and inflammation of a joint – almost always on the big toe.  The cause is crystals that form in the synovial fluid of the affected joint.  Luckily, it is treatable with medication.

3. Infection – Septic arthritis occurs when bacteria travel into your joint and multiply.  This results in inflammation and pain at the site.  Septic arthritis  most commonly affects the knees although other joints can also become infected.  It is critical to get medical help immediately in the form of intravenous antibiotics and often, drainage of the infected fluid.  The treatment is effective but not fun.  If you suspect you have an infected joint, run, or if it’s your knee, hobble to the nearest medical center.

4.  Chronic inflammatory diseases – Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, sarcoidosis and most obvious by name, rheumatoid arthritis, cause joint swelling and pain.  While osteoarthritis results from the wear and tear on the joints, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue.  This results in damage to the lining of the joints and over time, will result in deformity and erosion of the bone at the joint site.  I have an aunt with RA and she suffers terribly.  Progress is being made though, in treatment and prevention of disability.

5.  The hard to diagnose diseases – Lyme disease (not to be picky, but notice there is no “S” at the end of Lyme) and fibromyalgia often present with joint pain in addition to muscle aches, headache and fatigue.  The problem with their diagnosis is best illustrated by the fact that I present to my kitchen with these symptoms almost every morning.

In addition to the above, bone cancer or metastatic cancer to the bones can cause pain in the joints.  I’m sliding these in like a kid trying to slide a “D” in conduct at the end of a string of “As” and “Bs”.  Likely, your joint pain is much less serious than that and is just a sign that you are aging.  I meant that to be good news.  Of course, one of the benefits of getting older used to be that you could no longer get picked on in the schoolyard.  Now they tell me that this is still a very real possibility.  Next we’ll all be suffering from acne and crushes.

Tomorrow, how to keep your joints healthy.


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