Reach your arms to the sky and arch your back. That satisfying stretch is made possible by your joints.
In the body, a joint is where two bones meet. Examples include your ankles, hips, and knees. Cartilage (soft tissue) between the bones cushions them and keeps bones from rubbing together. Joints make us flexible and allow us to move.
When they’re healthy, our joints enable us to do everything from the mundane, like squatting down to pick up laundry, to the extraordinary, like setting a new world record at the Olympics. So, if you want to stay active and avoid pain, you need to take care of your joints.
Common joint problems
If you are experiencing pain in your joints, you might have one of these common joint problems:
- Chronic joint pain
It’s a myth that arthritis only affects older people. But your risk does increase as you age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four U.S. adults has been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia, and gout are other types of arthritis.
Risk factors for arthritis include:
- Age: You’re at an increased risk for arthritis as you grow older.
- Body weight: Extra weight puts extra stress on your joints.
- Gender: Women can be at a higher risk of developing arthritis than men.
- Genes: Your genetics can increase your likelihood of getting arthritis or can make your arthritis worse.
- Job: Physically demanding jobs that require you to squat or bend often can increase your risk for arthritis.
- Joint injuries: Repetitive stress and strain can contribute to arthritis.
- Smoking: Smoking increases your risk for arthritis by making it harder to stay active.
If you have arthritis, work with a healthcare provider so you can feel your best. Together, you can create a treatment plan that could include lifestyle changes, physical therapy or medicine to help improve your arthritis.
Chronic joint pain
When pain keeps returning or never goes away, it’s called chronic. If you have chronic joint pain, you might rearrange your daily activities to avoid feeling that pain. Arthritis, an old injury, another disease or a combination of those can cause your pain. But no matter the cause, without medical help, your pain will likely not get better anytime soon.
The good news is, by working with a healthcare provider, you can find a solution to improve your pain. Your doctor will likely start with treatments like physical therapy, medicine, steroid injections and lifestyle changes. If those don’t work, they may discuss surgery as an option.
Sprains and strains
Bands of tissue inside your joints – called ligaments – connect your bones and hold them together. When your ligaments stretch too far or tear, you get a sprain. If the sprain is mild, you can usually treat it at home with protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation (remember the acronym PRICE). If it’s more serious, you may need surgery to repair your ligament.
Strains, also called a “pulled muscle” or “torn muscle,” refer to a muscle injury or an injury to your tendon (a band of tissue connecting your muscle to a bone). You can put extra pressure on your muscles doing regular tasks or participating in sports, which could result in a strain. Similar to sprains, you can treat minor strains at home with protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You might have a more serious muscle injury if you heard a popping sound when you got injured, can’t walk or have severe symptoms.
When sprains or strains occur, you might notice symptoms including:
- Popping sound or feeling when the injury occurs
- Stiffness and limited movement
When to talk to a healthcare provider
If you have any numbness, or your pain isn’t getting better or is getting worse, talk to your healthcare provider. Also, if you have an injury that keeps you from moving or bearing weight, seek medical help.
With an expert diagnosis and treatment plan, your joint pain can improve – and you can do more of what you enjoy. To find a specialist and schedule an appointment, contact our free Consult-A-Nurse® service.