Joint pain is so prevalent because the problems that affect joints are many and varied. Knowing what’s behind your stiff, achy joints is the key to resolving it, but how do you figure out the problem?
Leave it to NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., Southern California’s nationally renowned, board-certified orthopedic surgeon. Professional athletes, college jocks, aging adults, and hard-working people throughout West Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks trust him as their go-to specialist for all musculoskeletal injuries and joint issues.
Here, Dr. Ghodadra explains the most common causes of joint pain, and how to recognize the subtle differences.
Your tendons are like thick cords that connect your muscles to your bones. When they become inflamed or irritated, you have tendonitis.
Repetitive motion is the primary culprit behind tendonitis — typing for hours, working on an assembly line, cutting hair, and painting walls are examples of repetitive movements.
Tendonitis can affect any joint, but it’s most common in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, and ankle. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness. If it’s left untreated, tendonitis can lead to more serious conditions, such as tendon rupture or tear.
Strains and sprains
A strain occurs when you overstretch a muscle or tendon, leading to pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion.
A sprain is a ligament injury that occurs if your joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion, such as when you roll your ankle. Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may experience mild tenderness and bruising, or extreme pain, instability, and swelling.
A complete ligament rupture, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in your knee, may produce the following symptoms:
- A popping sound or sensation at the time of injury
- Pain and swelling in the knee
- Limited range of motion
- Instability or feeling like the knee may give out when you put weight on it
- Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg
In addition to knees and ankles, ligament sprains are common in the shoulder, wrist, and neck.
Arthritis is an umbrella term that encompasses over 100 unique joint disorders. Here are a few of the most common types of arthritis:
As you age, the protective cartilage in your joints gradually wears down, allowing bones to rub together. OA can cause deep pain and stiffness in your joints that make it hard to bend, walk, or grip things.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and leads to severe tissue damage. Typically more severe than OA, RA symptoms include swelling, redness, warm skin over the joint, and multiple symmetrical affected joints — for example, if one wrist gets RA, the other wrist probably will, too.
When excess uric acid builds up in your body due to diet or kidney issues, it can crystallize in your joints — usually in your big toe. The pain is sudden and sharp, and the joint will appear swollen and red.
The ends of your bones are covered with articular cartilage so they can slide painlessly in your joints. Forceful impact, twisting, and years of wear can damage the articular cartilage, causing pain, swelling, a “catching feeling,” grating sounds, and joint locking.
Meniscus cartilage, the type in your knees that helps distribute load weight, can also sustain damage. Meniscus tears are the most common knee injury, particularly among athletes, as pivoting and cutting movements are often the cause. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, catching or locking sensations, and the feeling that your knee is giving way.
Your joints contain small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion your bones and reduce friction. Overuse injuries, acute injuries, or infection can lead to bursitis — inflamed bursa sacs — and it often goes hand in hand with diabetes, gout, and tendonitis. While you can get bursitis in any joint, it’s most common in the knee, elbow, hip, and Achilles tendon, where it causes pain, limited motion, swelling, and redness.
Help for joint pain
You can’t determine the cause of your joint pain based on symptoms alone, but Dr. Ghodadra can expertly diagnose the source of your condition and treat the underlying cause — and help you get back to life in full motion.
Contact NEIL GHADADRA, M.D., to schedule a consultation and get to the bottom of your joint pain today.