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What is non-arthritis joint pain?

Non arthritis joint pain

Joint pain can occur for several reasons, some simple and others that are more serious.  Arthritis, in particular osteoarthritis, is a common cause of direct joint pain and swelling, however, even in severe cases of degenerative joint arthritis, this may not be the cause of the pain.  The following are other cause of pain in the joints that are different and not as long term as arthritis and need to be treated differently.

  1. Muscle, joint structure and bio mechanical reasons for joint pain – even in cases of arthritis, the muscle or other structures can be the cause of pain.  The most typical example is knee pain.  You can have severe knee arthritis and feel no pain or have very mild arthritis and feel severe pain.  The most common cause of knee pain is irritation of the lining of the knee cap due to weakness and poor control of the position of the knee cap.  The knee cap shifts its position causing irritation of the lining of the joint, called the synovium, causing pain.  This is treatable, by strengthening the quadriceps, the major muscle surrounding the knee cap and by mobilising the knee cap to reduce the direct pressure on the synovium.
  2. Similarly in other joints, such as the shoulders, hips, lower back and wrists, muscle and other treatable physical factors can be the cause of pain rather than the arthritis.
  3. Sprain of the joint capsules – an incident or injury that puts excessive pressure on the joints can cause a tear of the joint capsule.  A common example is a tear in the capsule of the shoulder during sports such as netball or football.  It needs to be assessed and treated properly, but heals and gets better with the right management.
  4. More severe and long term causes of joint pain – other causes of joint pain can be more severe inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis.  Although the causes are different, these are auto-immune diseases that cause severe swelling, redness and hotness in the joints as well as pain.  However, the pattern of these diseases is distinct and different.  These usually cause night pain and there is a severe inflammatory response in the joints, meaning the joints will be hot and red.  In addition, this does not occur suddenly in general but develops over time.  If this sounds like you, your physiotherapist/exercise physiologist will pick up this pattern fairly early and refer you to your doctor or appropriate specialist for appropriate testing and management.

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