Although it may not feel like this, inflammation is part of a healing process that occurs when we sustain some type of injury.
Our immune system takes care of this task, however, in some cases it can trigger chronic inflammation, leading to pain, stiffness and joint damage. Here we will see why this happens, what are the most common types of arthritis, and how to reduce pain.
Joints are the point of contact where two or more bones meet, such as the knee, hip, elbow, or shoulder. They allow the skeleton to be flexible, without them, movement would be impossible. According to their range of motion, they can be classified into:
- Synarthrosis, immobile or fibrous: they are joints that do not move. They can be found between the edges of the bony plate that make up the skull, and they also keep the teeth fixed in the jaw.
- Amphiarthrosis, semi-mobile or cartilaginous: they are joints that move very little. They are held together by cartilage, as in the spine. Each vertebra moves in relation to the upper and lower vertebrae, and together they give flexibility to the spine.
- Diarthrosis, mobile or synovial: are joints that move in many directions. They are filled with synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant to help the joints move easily. Here are the joints of the hip, elbow, shoulder, wrist, knee, or ankle.
Why do the joints hurt?
Joint pain can occur as a result of many types of injuries or conditions. Normally, the regenerative capacity of cartilage (spongy tissue that protects the joints) is impaired.
- Tips to take care of your joints
This leaves the bones unprotected, rubbing against each other and causing swelling, pain and bony bumps in the joint, thus causing stiffness and difficulty in movement. The most common causes of joint pain are:
- Arthritis: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints.
- Bursitis: swelling and irritation of a bursa, a kind of fluid-filled sac that acts as a shock absorber between muscles, tendons, and bones.
- Muscle pain.
In turn, there are many types of inflammatory arthritis, standing out:
It occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, especially in the hands, wrists, and feet. It can also affect the heart, lungs, and eyes.
It can affect the knees, ankles, wrists, or fingers. It is estimated that about 30% of people with psoriasis (an autoimmune condition that causes raised patches of scaly skin) develop psoriatic arthritis.
It is characterized by an accumulation of uric acid, which can form crystals in the joints, especially in the big toe, although it can also be located in the hands, wrists or knees. The crystals activate a temporary inflammatory response that can become chronic.
Calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD or pseudogout)
In CPPD, calcium crystals are deposited in the joints, especially the knee, wrist, shoulder, ankle, or elbow. Like the uric acid crystals in gout, these can cause the body to respond with inflammation, which can become chronic over time.
It is a wear of the joints that cover the smooth cartilage, it has long been considered a non-inflammatory form of arthritis, although currently some inflammatory cells present in this condition have been recognized.
How joint pain can be treated
Joint pain is not usually a serious health threat, however, you should consult a doctor if it is accompanied by:
- Redness and excessive swelling.
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint.
- Joint deformity.
- Inability to use the joint.
- Intense pain.
- Why do joints hurt and how to relieve it
The health professional may recommend the use of different medications, such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). They reduce the levels of prostaglandins, chemicals that promote inflammation.
- Oral or injected steroids: reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
- Injections or intravenous infusions of nonbiological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). They inhibit the immune system.
- Biological DMARDs Injections or Infusions: Antibodies such as adalimumab (Humira). They suppress the immune system in a more targeted way than non-biological DMARDs.
- Medicines that lower uric acid levels.
- Apply cold (limits blood circulation) or heat (increases blood circulation) to the affected joint for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Avoid moving the joint in a way that causes pain or worsens the situation.
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Good nutrition: olive oil, broccoli, turmeric, ginger, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, nuts, spinach, chard, or orange, are some of the foods that experts advise to include in the diet to help take care of the joints. This is because they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Avoid overloads– When carrying or moving heavy objects, try to use the largest and strongest joints and muscles. In this way, you will distribute the load in large surface areas and reduce the stress on the smaller joints.
- Avoid or limit tobacco and caffeine– Smokers are at increased risk of joint, bone and muscle damage. In turn, excessive caffeine consumption is linked to weakening of the joints and bones.
- Avoid sedentary lifestyleExercise protects joints by strengthening the muscles around them. When the muscles are strong, they prevent the joints from rubbing against each other, wearing down the cartilage. You can opt, for example, for water exercises, which help maintain flexibility and range of motion. In addition, it is advisable to change position frequently when performing daily activities, for example, working. Prolonged sitting or standing can have serious consequences for the joints.
- Lose weightThere is evidence that for every extra ½ kg you gain, you put four times more stress on your knees. Even with a small weight loss you will find relief.
If the joint pain is mild, you can resort to different care at home:
How to prevent joint damage
You can protect your joints by improving the way you perform daily tasks and modifying your lifestyle:
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health Publishing, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.