A joint is a point where bones come together, held in place and supported by soft tissues including ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Whether due to aging or injury, joints can become damaged, leaving you with pain and stiffness that make it difficult to get through your day. If your joints ache all the time, Dr. Dinash Yanamadula at Princeton Pain and Spine Institute offers a number of treatments that can help.
What are common joint problems?
There are many different causes of joint pain, but here are some of the most common.
As you get older, your body suffers from wear-and-tear damage, and nowhere is that more common than in the joints, which you use every single day. While there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis (from the Greek, meaning “joint inflammation”), by far the most prevalent is osteoarthritis (OA).
OA is a progressive disease, meaning it continues to get worse over time. The typical progression is:
- Synovitis: mild inflammation of joint tissues
- Damage and loss of cartilage
- Bony growths (bone spurs or osteophytes) form around joint edges
The aching pain and stiffness you experience come from bone grating on bone, inflammation, and the loss of stability in the joint structure. In addition, it’s possible for bone spurs, especially in the spine, to compress nerves, leading to pain that’s more stabbing or shooting in nature.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another type of arthritis, but in this case, it’s not a wear-and-tear problem. RA is a chronic autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues in your joints and other structures. Unlike other forms of arthritis, it occurs in the joints on both sides of your body simultaneously.
Uncontrolled inflammation damages the cushioning cartilage, causing pain and stiffness and deforming your joints over time. Eventually, the bone itself erodes, leading to fusion within the joint as your body tries to protect itself from constant irritation. The rogue cells also affect other parts of your body, including your skin, eyes, mouth, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and heart.
A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, the tough fibrous tissue that connects two bones in your joints. The most common location for a sprain is the ankle, usually from walking on an uneven surface or landing awkwardly from a jump. Other common areas for sprains are the knee, wrist, and thumb.
Symptoms vary depending on the location of the sprain and its severity, but they often include:
- Experiencing a "pop" in your joint at the time of injury
- Limited range of motion in the joint
Sprains should not be confused with strains. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments that hold bones together in a joint, while strains are injuries to a muscle or the band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. Both, though, can leave you with aching joints.
Can you help my joint pain?
At Princeton Pain and Spine Institute, how we treat your joint pain depends on the underlying cause of that pain.
One option Dr. Yanamadula uses for arthritic joints is corticosteroid injections. He injects both a fast-acting local anesthetic to numb the painful joint and a longer-acting steroid that works to decrease inflammation. Often this takes away enough of the pain and stiffness that you can engage in physical therapy, which teaches you stretches and exercises to keep the joint limber and less painful over time.
Viscosupplementation is another useful treatment for OA. People with OA usually have less hyaluronic acid (HA) in their joints than they should, which leads to symptoms like pain, stiffness, and swelling. Dr. Yanamadula injects the thick fluid into your affected joint to replace the lost HA and reduce symptoms.
Genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation (GNRFA) is another option, one that’s been used in the management of symptomatic OA of the knee. This is a relatively new and innovative treatment option that has the ability to decrease pain and improve function and quality of life in certain patients.
For patients who have RA, additional oral anti-inflammatories may be necessary to calm down the immune system response.
In the case of sprains, especially mild ones, you can treat them at home with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Physical therapy may provide a helpful add-on to rehab the torn tissue. Sometimes, severe sprains (complete rupture) require surgery to repair torn ligaments.
If you’ve got achy joints and need relief, your next stop should be Princeton Pain and Spine Institute. Call our Lawrenceville, New Jersey office at 380-205-3836 to schedule a consultation, or request an appointment online.