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Ultimate Guide to Joint Pain 2021

Do you wonder why you keep having joint pain despite all the treatments you have used? This post will demystify joint pain, why it happens, and some of the various proven treatment methods.

Joints are structures that connect bones in the body. Their primary function is to provide support and help for the body when moving. Without their connection, it becomes impossible to move. 

They ensure the body moves in different ways in the body. For instance, some joints such as the knees and elbows open and close up during movement. However, others like the shoulder or hip joint allow for more complex movement, including rotating, forward, back, and sideway movements.

Despite the support that these joints provide, pains somehow find their way to them, leading to joint pains.

What Are Joint Pains?

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Joint pains are aches, discomfort, or soreness in a joint or joints in the body. Joint pain is a general complaint among many people and they sometimes don’t require seeing a doctor. Although there are other causes of joint pain, it is usually a result of arthritis, injury, or wear and tear.

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) reports that one in four adults with arthritis reports severe joint pain. In the same vein, the British Society for Rheumatology, in a Longitudinal Study of Joint Pain in Older People, found 83% of joint pain prevalence. The pain may vary from mild aches and soreness to severe sensations and burning.

It is important to note that joint pain also occurs in children due to injury or growing pain in the thigh and calf muscles or behind the knees. In most cases, the discomfort is harmless and diminishes as a child grows. However, it may be from severe conditions such as leukemia, lupus, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

What are the Symptoms of Joint pains?

  • Swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint redness
  • Locking of joint
  • Limping
  • Weakness
  • Joint hotness
  • Joint tenderness
  • Muscle cramps

Types of Joint Pains

Joints pains occur in different places in the body, but the most common areas are the knee, shoulder, hip, and ankle.

  1. Knee Joint Pain

Knee joint pain may arise from a torn cartilage, strained ligaments, fractures, and breaks. Medical conditions like arthritis, infections, and gouts can also cause knee pain. You can treat many of the causes of knee joint pain at home. 

The severity of knee pain depends on the location and cause of the problem. Below are the common signs and symptoms:

  • Stiffness and swelling
  • Cracking noises
  • Inability to stretch the knee
  • Instability and fatigue
  • Skin redness
  • Joint warmth
  • Popping
  • Limping
  • Inability to bend the knee

Causes of Knee Joint Pain

Injuries: A knee injury can damage the tendons and ligaments surrounding the knee joint, bones, and cartilage. Some of the injuries include:

  • Fractures: A fracture is the breaking of bones and kneecap (also patella). It can happen during a motor accident, sudden falls, or slips in the bathroom. People with weak bones due to osteoporosis are prone to knee fractures if they are not careful. 
  • ACL injury: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains are the most common causes of knee joint injury.  It results from a tear of one of the ligaments connecting the shinbone to the thigh bone. Even though ACL can occur in any person, it is common in athletes who play soccer, tennis, and basketball because of sudden changes in the direction the sports require.
  • Dislocated Kneecap: This happens when the patella bones sitting in front of the knee get out of their original place. The dislocated kneecap may be obvious or not. It usually occurs when there is a sudden change in the legs’ direction in sports or dancing activities.
  • Hip or foot pain: Hip pain is another pain on its own, but it has a connection with the knee joint. If you have hip pain, it naturally causes you to change the way you walk, putting a strain on the knee joint. Injuries from strenuous activity and problems with the spinal cord can sometimes cause hip pain.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is the swelling of the joints in the body. There are over 50 types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the cartilages in the knee due to age (from middle age downward) and overuse.
  • Rheumatoid is more severe and makes patients weak than other types of arthritis. It can harm any joint in the body and hardly ever leaves the body.
  • Excess weight: Excess body mass can put a massive strain on the knees. Even ordinary activities such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs can result in gradual knee joint pain, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis. 
  1. Shoulder Joint Pain

The shoulder, unlike other locations in the body, has a vast flexible motion. It can be moved forward, backward, sideways, and in a circular motion. When something affects the shoulder in any form, it hinders your ability to move the whole arm up and away from the body. 

The shoulder’s ability to move freely results from the rotator cuff, which comprises four tendons – tissues connecting the muscle to the bone. Pain arises when the tendons or bones around the rotator cuff damages.

Shoulder joint pain may also result from injury to another part of the body like the neck, back, and biceps. This condition is called referred pain. It is milder than other types of shoulder pain. Other causes of shoulder pain are:

  • Arthritis: This condition usually comes as a result of tear and wear. It may be due to age or overuse during certain activities like sports and tedious activities.  The effects are swelling and tenderness around the shoulder area.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation signs include warmth, redness, and swelling as a reaction to an infection.
  • Dislocated Shoulder: Dislocated injury is an injury in which the upper arm bone pops out of the socket holding it. The shoulder is more susceptible to dislocation than other parts of the body because it is flexible and highly mobile. It results in swelling and bruising.
  • Damage to the Neck: There are situations when joint shoulder pain is coming from the neck. Neck problems arising from bad sleeping or sitting posture usually make the upper arm irritated.
  • Torn Cartilage: The cartilage is the connective tissue around the shoulder joint. A cartilage tear can happen when you repeat the same motion many times, or the shoulder absorbs impact and shock when there is a sudden fall.
  • Frozen shoulder: Frozen shoulder limits the movement of your joint. This condition happens when tissues build up in the joint when you use your shoulder less.

Other causes include torn ligaments, damaged rotator cuff, broken spinal cord, and bone spurs.

  1. Hip Joint Pain

Hip joint pain is the general name given to the pain inside or around the hip or groin. Injuries and certain medical conditions can cause hip joint pain. The most common causes include arthritis, inflamed tendons, and tendonitis resulting from strenuous exercises. 

Causes of Hip joint Pain

Arthritis: Like any other joint pain, arthritis is one of the common causes of hip joint pain. It causes stiffness, tender joints, and limping. The various types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, infectious arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

  • Osteoarthritis is associated with age-related depletion of the cartilage surrounding the joints.
  • Infectious arthritis: When the joint is infected, it causes long-term damage to the cartilage.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This condition happens when the body’s immune system attacks the joints. It may lead to the destruction of joint cartilage and bones.

Hip Fracture: Hip fracture happens when one of the bones around the hips breaks. Older individuals tend to experience this condition more than others due to the degeneration of their bones.

The pain from the hip is excruciating and often comes as sudden jabs. If you do not take care of it as soon as possible, hip joint pain may result in blood clots in the legs.

Snapping Hip Syndrome: This condition is common among dancers and athletes. It is a sudden snapping sound or feeling in the hip; hence, the name – snapping hip syndrome. Patients feel pain when walking, sitting, or standing up. In some cases, it is painless but can also be painful.

  1. Ankle Joint Pain

Ankle joint pain is any pain or discomfort around the ankles. There are many reasons why you may experience ankle pain. The most common causes are arthritis, injury, and wear and tear. 

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

The pain you feel varies depending on the cause. Usually, you feel pain, swelling, and stiffness around the ankle, making it difficult to put on more weight on it. Common causes of ankle joint pain include:

  • Fracture: Injuries from accidents can cause the bones around the ankle to break. Ankle fractures can be mild with no visible broken bones to severe fractures, which may need surgery. The effects are swelling and pain.
  • Bursitis: Bursae are fluid sacs that protect the bones when you move. Bursitis occurs when these sacs are inflamed, leading to swelling around the ankle.
  • Sprains: We see more sprains among athletes during sports activities. An ankle sprain happens due to a tear in the ligaments. A twisted ankle may also occur when the ankle moves forcefully out of its usual location.
  • Tendonitis: The tendons connect the muscles to the bones. When there is a tear of the tendons, it causes the ankle to swell up and causes pain. This condition may need surgery before it can heal.

General Treatments Methods For Joint Pains

The treatment option for joint pain depends on the cause and severity of the pain. The standard treatment options include pain relievers (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery. However, you can also try some stretches, exercise, and natural remedies.

Stretches and Exercises

Stretches and exercises are some of the inexpensive methods of relieving joint pains. You can try them at any time of the day and anywhere. 

  1. Shoulder Roll: As the name implies, this simple exercise requires you to roll your shoulder in a circular motion. First, stand with your two arms by your side, and move your shoulders forward and backward ten times. This movement ensures more flexibility of the shoulder and keeps the shoulder bones intact in their sockets.
  2. Hip Swings: This is an exercise targeted at hip joint pain. To start with, ensure you stand behind the chair and hold it for support while you swing your left leg forward and backward. Do this at least ten times before switching to the other side for the right leg.
  3. Side Bends: Side bends are more of stretches than actual exercises, and it works for the hips. To do this, stand with your feet apart, your shoulder apart, and your tummy tucked in. 

Then, try to reach your right arm up over your head while sliding the left arm down your left leg to the knee. Countdown to 10, and if you feel any pain, it means you are overstretching.

  1. Quadriceps stretch: Lie on your left side, and grab your right heel with your right hand. Then, pull your right leg to your buttocks until there is a stretch around the thigh. Count up to 10 and roll to your other side to repeat the process. This exercise works for both knee and ankle joint pains.

Can Physical Therapy Work for Joint Pain?

Physical therapy involves using massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than drugs or surgery. This treatment is one of the most highly-rated forms of joint pain treatment. It aims to enhance the performance of joints weakened by injury and inflammation.

Image by master1305 from Freepik

Sometimes, some joint pains may be from environmental factors. A physical therapist can help you find the exact causes of these pains and suggest ways to adapt to them. Also, a physical therapist can target joint pains through specialized treatments such as icing, massage, and hot therapy.

Can Pillow Help with Joint Pain?

Pillows provide comfort and maximum cushioning for the different parts of the body and significantly reduce joint pain. Most people only use a pillow to support their necks while they sleep; however, there are pillows for the body’s different parts, such as the knee, back, and hips.

A pillow between the knees provides maximum comfort and prevents the knee joints from rubbing, leading to pain. A knee pillow can also reduce hip pain and set your hips and spine in the correct position when you place it between your knees. Ensure the pillow is contoured enough to stay between your legs.

How to Sleep with Hip Joint Pain

  • Try different positions to see which is comfortable.
  • Place a small wedge-shaped pillow under your hips for cushioning. 
  • Try to place a pillow between your knees to ease pain and reduce stress around your hips.
  • Perform hip stretches and exercises before bed.
  • Try cold therapy.

There are other means of treating joint pain, which include repercussion massager and surgeries.

A repercussion massager uses vibration to massage the muscles and enhance the blood flow to areas such as the neck, lower back, and shoulders. The firm and gentle pressure of the vibration may release more blood to body parts like the neck and back, thereby relieving pain.

Surgery Options for Joint Pain

There are many surgical options for joints pain in a case of severe pain and discomfort. These include arthroscopy, joint resurfacing, osteotomy, Synovectomy, Arthrodesis, Fusion, total joint replacement, and joint revision.

Joint replacement, arthrodesis, and synovectomy are the most common surgeries for joint pain.

  1. Joint replacement: Surgeons replace the worn-out joint with an implant that resembles natural joints for this surgery. Joint implants are made from plastic and metals.
  2. Arthrodesis: This involves using pins, plates, rods, or other tools to connect two or more bones in any part of the body to make a joint. This surgery aims to make the bones grow together and lock the joint in the proper position.  
  3. Synovectomy: This procedure involves removing all the affected lining of the joints in a severe arthritis patient.

Natural Remedies for Joint Pain

  1. Maintain your weight.
  2. Eat a healthy diet.
  3. Try hot and cold therapy to relieve pain.
  4. Exercise regularly to promote flexibility in the joints.
  5. Get a massage to enhance the flow of blood in the body.
  6. Wrap the affected part so it does not rub with other parts of the body.
  7. Take fish oil supplements.
  8. Reduce your sugar intake.
  9. Natural joint supplements


Symptoms such as joint swelling, joint warmth, and joint tenderness are signs of Joint pains that are mostly harmless but get in the way of your activities. The typical joint pains include knee, ankle, shoulder, and hip, while the leading causes are injury, arthritis, and wear and tear.

Thankfully, there are vast treatment options for joint pains, including physical therapy, pillows, surgeries, massage, and exercise.

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