Arthritis and osteoarthritis are among the most common joint problems, especially among the elderly. However, there are other pathologies that occur in these complex structures. There are systemic diseases that cause joint pain, inflammation and disability. Join us to learn more about this topic.
What are joint pains?
Joints are made up of bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and synovial bursae. Any of these anatomical elements produces pain if injured. It may be mild and occur only after some activity, or so severe that it limits common activities.
Joint pain is then the manifestation of an injury. When describing joint symptoms it is important to differentiate between these three concepts:
- Arthralgia, which means pain and may occur in one or more joints.
- Arthritis, which applies when there is chronic or acute inflammation.
- Osteoarthritis is a chronic and irreversible process of cartilage destruction.
Common causes of joint discomfort and osteoarthritis
Work or sports overload and osteoarthritis processes are two very common causes of joint pain. Let’s see what their most important characteristics are.
Role of joint overload in arthritis
It is perhaps the most common problem, resulting from situations in which the joint is subjected to excessive work. Two damaging effects are generated: iterative trauma and overstrain.
In athletes there is a high possibility of making mistakes in training technique, or of training too fast and with too much intensity. The lack of control of ergonomic risks related to the work activity is another very frequent cause.
Occupational diseases with osteoarticular disorders are the result of factors such as poor posture, incorrect handling of loads and repetitive movements. It should be noted that musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are the most common occupational problem in Europe.
As we explained earlier, osteoarthritis is a chronic , degenerative disease caused by wear and tear of the articular cartilage. It is mainly located in the spine, hands, hips and knees and affects 10% of the general population in Spain.
The main symptom is pain in the affected joint. Typically, it increases with movement or activities that involve handling loads, while it decreases at rest. In addition, there is stiffness and functional disability.
Although it is not a hereditary disease, there is a genetic predisposition and having family members suffering from arthritis is a risk factor. Other factors, perhaps more important, are obesity, sedentary lifestyle, advanced age and incorrect posture.
Other causes of joint pain
In general, arthralgias are not accompanied by any other signs. They are transitory discomfort, caused by a punctual overload and which subside in a few days.
In other situations the pain is prolonged, but limited to one joint. Among the most common causes are the following:
- Osteomyelitis or bone infection.
- Septic arthritis or joint infection.
Other times the pain is persistent and, in addition, appears in several joints. If there are other signs, such as fever or unintentional weight loss of more than four kilograms, it may be a systemic disease.
In these cases, a doctor should be consulted and the possible diagnoses are autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis . It may also be metabolic pathologies, such as gout or pseudogout.
Clinical evaluation of joint diseases
If you go to the doctor with what could be arthritis, he or she will perform a complete history and examination. It is possible to find the symptoms that we will see below.
- Signs of inflammation: local heat, pain, redness and enlargement of surrounding tissues.
- Pain that appears when moving the limb.
- Limited arch mobility due to lack of flexibility.
- Sounds that occur with flexion and extension.
- Osteophytes, or portions of bone that feel like prominences.
Treatment for arthritis and arthrosis
At present, the treatment for arthritis and joint pain is basically palliative, as cartilage wear progresses and cannot be reversed. The aim is to alleviate pain and slow down the progression by prescribing anti-inflammatory analgesics.
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It is very convenient to adopt general measures, which are very useful. These include physical therapy, maintaining the correct weight and increasing physical activity. Postural hygiene is essential to correct one of the causative factors, such as joint overload.
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