LETTER J: JOINT PAIN?

JOINT PAIN?

“Ah, my joints” these were the words of Mrs. Sharma every time she woke up from bed for nearly 3 months. Like most women in our society, she kept avoiding consulting a doctor and tried some home remedies. When pain increased beyond her tolerance she got herself examined and was horrified when she was advised a replacement surgery for her knees. What was more horrifying was the fact that she had a ligament injury and was advised joint replacement! This story is a reflection of how we fail to take timely treatment and how a lack of awareness can ruin your health.

Today is the day to enlighten yourself a little bit about the wonderful concept of movement in our body. Mechanism of joint function is an engineering miracle created by nature. Only when there is some disruption, we experience symptoms. Basically, a joint is defined as the connection between two bones. It holds both ends of these bones and allows their smooth movement.

There are many structures near and within a joint, each of which may be a potential cause of pain. The process of identifying the correct trouble inducing structure and its cause is the skill of an experienced healthcare provider. It is necessary to know that not all pain in the vicinity of the joint is caused by joint itself that can be treated with replacement.

Following are some conditions that may mimic as joint pain:

Sprains: Ligament injuries are also a well-established cause of pain and so examining it with special physical tests by a physiotherapist can diagnose the extent of the injury.

Strains: Muscle tears can also cause severe pain. When certain movements cause sharp aches and there is significant swelling after particular injury or fall then this has to be ruled out.

Contusion: Commonly known as bruise it can affect many structures such as muscle, bone, cartilage, etc. and can cause mild to severe pain and difficulty in movements.

Tendinitis: There are many tendons which attach to the comprised bone of the joint. The rubbing or hurting of this structure can also cause irritation and reduction in range and strength.

Neural component: Sometimes certain nerve related disorders can pain in the vicinity of joints .Assessment of pattern, type, distribution and an association of other symptoms is essential to rule it out.

Bursitis: This is the inflammation of the bursa (a sac-like structure) and is one of the most common causes of aches around joints. They are positioned between bones and soft tissues. Bursa reduces friction by acting as a cushion so any inflammation in it disturbs smooth movement.

At times investigation methods such as X-ray, MRI, CT scan provide information to determine the involved structure.

Expert Physiotherapists examine the condition and come to a diagnosis after taking complete history (events and problems a person has experienced), examining each structure mentioned above, measuring the range of motion, assessing the strength of muscles, checking joint involvement,  performing special tests and use established scales. A list of problems from the patient’s end is made and synced with the physical ailment. Goals are then prepared as both short and long term. This type of detailed checking is the foundation of good rehabilitation and a permanent solution to the pain.

So next time, if you hear someone go for Joint Replacement, please guide them to confirm if joint is really the culprit to their pain!