Joint Series - Blog 1: Why do I Have Joint Pain?

Understanding the anatomy and function of the body’s joints can help patients begin to realize why they experience joint pain and what can be done to relieve it.

We tend to have a love-hate relationship with our joints. We love what they allow us to do when they’re healthy, because let’s face it, running after the toddler and playing ball on the weekends sure would be tough without strong, capable knees, shoulders and hips. But the moment we start to experience joint pain, the relationships turns sour. The very joints that used to afford us so much strength and mobility suddenly become the source of constant irritation and chronic discomfort.

If you’re currently experiencing problems with one or more of your joints, you’re probably beginning to wonder: Why do I have joint pain in the first place? Perhaps it came out of nowhere, creeping up on you with no warning or notice. Or, maybe it’s been a gradual onset of mild pain and occasional stiffness. And until now, it’s been easy to ignore.

Whatever the case, you’ve reached a point where you need some answers. And the good news is that this article will help you better understand not only the anatomy of your joints, but some of the possible causes that may be contributing to your pain. Let’s start with an overview of joint anatomy.

Back to Anatomy 101

In the most basic definition, joints can be described as the locations in the body where two or more bones meet. Within that location, there are several key components that make up what we understand to be the joint as a whole.

  • Cartilage

    • What is it? It’s a protective tissue that covers the end surface of the bones that meet in the joint.

    • What does it do? Cartilage helps reduce the friction of movement within a joint.
  • Synovial Membrane

    • What is it? It’s a tissue that lines the joint and seals it into a “capsule.”

    • What does it do? The synovial membrane secretes clear, sticky fluid around the joint in order to lubricate it.
  • Synovial Fluid

    • What is it? It’s the clear, sticky fluid secreted by the synovial membrane.

    • What does it do? It reduces friction between the articular cartilage of joints during movement.
  • Bursas

    • What are they? A bursa is a fluid-filled sac located between bones, ligaments, or other adjacent structures.

    • What do they do? They help to cushion and reduce friction in a joint.

  • Ligaments

    • What are they? They are tough, elastic bands of connective tissue that surround joints to provide support and contain the joint's movement.

    • What do they do? Ligaments connect bones together and power the joint for movement.

  • Tendons

    • What are they? They are another type of tough tissue that connects to muscle on each side of a joint in order to control movement.

    • What do they do? Tendons connect muscles to bones in order to power the joint for movement.

So...Why Do I Have Joint Pain?

These important components, when healthy, are what allows joints to move without friction, catching, stiffness and pain. Whether pivot, hinge, or ball-and-socket, most of the body’s joints are mobile, and as so they depend on each of these important pieces to accommodate powered, painless movement. Without the protective features, bone on bone contact occurs and produces pain.

The above scenario results in what is considered the United States’ leading cause of disability: arthritis. When you’re asking, “Why do I have joint pain?” you have to consider the very probable likelihood of chronic degenerative joint disease, or “wear and tear” arthritis. However, pain and inflammation - whether in the joints or elsewhere - is simply the body’s sensory response to signal that a problem is present. So, it’s possible that your joint pain is alerting you to an entirely different issue. Let’s take a look at a few other potential causes of your pain.

Arthritis-Related Conditions

There are potential causes for joint pain outside of the condition we commonly refer to as chronic arthritis (which includes osteoarthritis as well as several forms of inflammatory arthritis).

First, you may be experiencing acute, temporary arthritis as a related symptom of another underlying disease or condition, such as a viral infection, a strep infection, Lyme disease, or Gout. If you suspect that you may be suffering from one of the above mentioned conditions, check the symptoms commonly associated with these issues and call your doctor to find out if your arthritis may be a symptom of a different root problem.

It is also possible that you have a condition that technically exists outside of the joint, but causes pain in or around the joint. Conditions that match this description include Osteoporosis and Fibromyalgia, or even Bursitis and Tendonitis, which are often caused by injury.

When considering the question, “Why do I have joint pain?” be sure to discuss these possibilities with your physician. Chances are, however, that your joint pain is the result of chronic arthritis in the form of either degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) or inflammatory joint disease.

All About Arthritis

Those suffering from joint pain due to arthritis often list their symptoms with the following descriptions:

  • Pain with movement of the joint

  • Weakness (atrophy) in the surrounding muscles

  • Tenderness to touch

  • Limited ability to move the joint

  • Swelling (and sometimes warmth) in the joint

  • A grating feeling or sound that occurs with movement

  • Pain when pressure is placed on the joint

Temporary occurrence of these symptoms may result as the body’s natural response to an injury or virus. However, when joint pain persists or worsens over time, chronic arthritis is most likely present and must be addressed by establishing a pain management plan with a qualified physician. For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

In fact, in Blog #2 of this series, we answer the question: What are my treatment options for Arthritis? Be sure to check out the rest of the content from this series for helpful information on the topic of joint pain and arthritis management.

Joint Series - Blog 1: Why do I Have Joint Pain?

Common Causes of Joint Pain

How do I Know if I Have Arthritis

Do I Need to See a Doctor About Arthritis

Joint Series - Blog 2: What are my Treatment Options for Arthritis?

Best Joint Treatment Options

Best Physician for Arthritis

Joint Series - Blog 3: Do I Need a Joint Replacement?

Joint Replacement Recovery

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