If the hinge points that connect your bones are painful and / or swollen, this is referred to as joint pain. Painful joints can also be accompanied by stiffness, redness and warmth. These complaints can have many different causes, such as overload, osteoarthritis or forms of joint inflammation. These can usually be treated with painkillers, but exercise therapy or surgery may be necessary.

What is joint pain?

With joint pain, your joints are painful and / or swollen. Your joints are so-called ‘hinge points’ between bones and are located in different places in your body, such as your shoulders, back, elbows, wrists, hands / fingers, hips, knees, ankles and toes. Your joints are covered with a layer of cartilage and also contain moisture. This ensures that the different parts of the joints can slide smoothly together.

The functioning of your joints can be limited for various reasons, such as overload, wear or inflammatory diseases. Depending on the cause and the type of condition, in addition to pain in your joints, you may also experience swelling, stiffness, heated or red skin and possibly also fever or nausea. Usually it is possible to treat these complaints yourself with painkillers, but with additional complaints such as fever and nausea, it is important to contact your doctor.

Joint complaints occur in many people in our country, especially in the elderly. For example, they more often suffer from rheumatism or osteoarthritis, but joint pain also occurs in younger people. For them, the cause is more often with overload or sports injuries, but certain types of rheumatism also occur in children. Approximately 2 million Dutch people suffer from some form of rheumatism, but there are also more people who suffer from joint complaints with a different cause.

Causes of joint pain

Joint pain is not a condition or disease in itself, but a complaint that occurs with many different conditions. Joint complaints can therefore have many different causes, such as:

  • overload
  • injuries (such as a torn meniscus)
  • wear on the cartilage and joints (such as with osteoarthritis)
  • inflammation in the joints (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, gout or acute rheumatism)

Joint pain symptoms

Joint pain can be temporary or chronic, go away on its own, or get worse. The course of the complaints depends on their cause. In any case, most causes of joint complaints involve:

  • joint pain
  • stiffness of the joints
  • swelling in and / or around the joint

If the cause of the symptoms is inflammation, caused by, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, gout or acute rheumatism, you may also experience:

  • heated skin around the joint
  • redness of the skin around the joint
  • fever, nausea and other symptoms

If you suffer from the last three symptoms, please contact your doctor. Especially when there is acute rheumatism you need medical help.

How is joint pain diagnosed?

When you come to the doctor with joint pain, he will first ask all kinds of questions to get a better picture of the nature and severity of your complaints and the factors that cause them. The doctor will also perform a physical examination and include:

  • look for any swelling
  • examine the muscles around the joint
  • test whether the mobility of the joint is limited
  • see exactly where the pain comes from
  • feel if the skin around your joint is heated

It is also sometimes necessary to examine your blood or the fluid in your joint cavity. For example, inflammation can be detected. If the doctor wants to determine whether there is damage to your joint and where exactly, it may be necessary to use imaging techniques, such as having X-rays taken.

Risk factors / groups

Since joint pain can be caused by many different factors, from straining and injuries to different types of rheumatism, there are also many different risk groups. Overload and injuries are common in people who do physically demanding work, do a lot of repetitive movements, or exercise sports that are stressful on the joints, such as football, basketball, hockey, and running.

The risk groups for forms of rheumatism include:

  • elderly
  • overweight people
  • women
  • people with acidification
  • people with autoimmune diseases
  • people with hereditary predisposition

Treatment of Joint

The best way to treat your joint complaints depends very much on the cause. In the first instance, painkillers such as paracetamol are often chosen. These help you to keep moving, which is recommended for many joint complaints. This way you prevent the surrounding muscles from stiffening or weakening and you get even more trouble moving.

If your joint pain is caused by inflammation, you may be prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs). Many people prefer to choose a cream that contains ibuprofen, for example, than to take NSAIDs in tablet form. You can apply the cream or gel locally on the painful area. Except in some cases, some skin irritation, this is usually not accompanied by side effects. The chance is much greater with NSAIDs that you take orally.

If your joint complaints are caused by some form of rheumatism, you may be prescribed medication. For example, there are special rheumatic inhibitors that can reduce inflammation and pain. Following an intensive rheumatism treatment at home or abroad can also relieve your complaints for a few months. In addition, you can get support from a rheumatologist, a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist to help you live better with the consequences of rheumatism.

Some damage to the joint may require surgery. In some people with joint problems at the knee or hip, the joint is (partially) replaced by an artificial knee or an artificial hip.

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