Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It results in degeneration or wear of the cartilage cushion in a joint and the formation of bone spurs. Osteoarthritis of the spine is a breakdown of the cartilage of the joints and discs in the neck and lower back, causing stiffness or pain. This breakdown of cartilage may put pressure on nerves, which could then lead to weakness or numbness in the legs or arms.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints, resulting in stiffness and pain.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, fluid-filled sacs that cushion bony prominences, allowing muscles and tendons to move freely over the bone.
Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood, which can accumulate in the joint (usually a big toe) and cause an attack of sudden burning pain, stiffness and swelling.
When to Call your Doctor for Joint Problems
- If you have fever that is not associated with flu symptoms
- If your joint pain lasts for more than three days
- If you have severe, unexplained joint pain, particularly if you have other unexplained symptoms such as a rash or tick bite
Managing the Pain
Short-term, nonarthritis joint pain can be relieved with a few techniques at home:
- Protect the joint with a brace or wrap.
- Rest the joint, avoiding activities that cause you pain.
- Ice the joint for about 15 minutes, several times each day.
- Elevate the joint above the level of your heart.
While rest is important, avoid keeping the joint still for too long because it can eventually become stiff and lose function. Stretching and light exercise are actually good for joints! Consider working with a physical therapist, who can show you how to exercise safely and maintain good posture.
Finally, anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve pain and swelling. Consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for you.
To learn about GBMC’s Joint and Spine Center, visit www.gbmc.org/jointandspine.