Joints are more than just the place where your bones meet each other. They are a complex structure made up of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Cartilages are jelly like but strong connective tissues that function as “shock absorbers” throughout the body. They enable supple movement, preventing bone friction.
Tendons connect muscles to the bone and the bones are harnessed to the joint by ligaments. A fluid-like joint capsule isolates the entire joint ensuring lubrication and nutrition.
In everyday life we tend to loosely use words like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and “slipped-disc’ for chronic joint pain. Joint disorders could arise from any of the above tissues being affected.
Here is a brief explanation of common bone and joint diseases.
Osteoporosis- osteoporosis is a disease of weak and brittle bone due to the low mass. It is commoner in women, especially post-menopausal increasing mortality and morbidity by increasing risk of fracture.
Bone mass formation starts at birth and peaks at 30 years. A strong family history, Low dietary intake of calcium in the youth, sedentary life style, excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, sex and thyroid hormone deficiencies are the main risk factors of osteoporosis.
Good nutrition, calcium and vitamin supplements with regular exercises are the key to lifelong bone health.
Arthritis – an arthritic joint in painful, red, swollen with stiffness and restricted joint movements.
Osteoarthritis – this is the commonest type of arthritis caused by age related degeneration of the articular cartilage leading to “roughening” of the joint. Tiny bits of extra bone called osteophytes are formed with stretching of the joint capsule, in the body’s attempt to repair the problem and deforms the joint.
Symptomatic relief is achieved by painkillers such as paracetamol and NSAIDs. Severe osteoarthritis is treated with intra-articular steroid injections and prosthetic joint replacement surgery.
Gout arthritis– too much uric acid in the body can be genetic or exacerbated by obesity, alcohol intake and certain food containing urates. Urate crystals can be harmless but if they deposit in a joint capsule following an injury, they can cause pain, swelling, redness with warmth and skin peeling. Treatment of gout is to manage pain and reduce the amount of urate in the blood with medications like allopurinol.
Rheumatoid arthritis – a type of auto-immune inflammatory arthritis. These patients present with symptoms of morning stiffness, typically symmetrical in the small, peripheral joints of the body,
Drugs called DMARDs (Disease-modifying-anti rheumatic-drugs) can slow down the over-active immune system in the body but after the onset of systemic involvement and joint deformities, RA can be severely debilitating.
Septic arthritis an infection in the joint fluid and surrounding joint tissue. This is a medical emergency that needs aggressive treatment with antibiotics or surgical draining of the joint.
Sudden injuries like sports injuries can lead to sprains and strains where ligaments or tendons are stretched or torn. High-intensity injuries can result in dislocated joints.
Joint pain, swelling with warmth, redness and restricted movements after an accident have to be attended to by a doctor to exclude dislocation and fractures along with identifying nerve and vessel damages.
Typically, lower back pain originates from wear and tear related degeneration of the cartilage discs in-between the back-bones.
You could accidentally “slip a disc” by lifting a heavy weight in an un-favorable position. The “slipped disc” impinges on the corelating nerve root causing pain along the entire nerve’s pathway. Treatment depends on the severity of prolapse but acute pain with severe neurological symptoms warrants urgent surgery.
good nutrition and physical activity strengthen the muscles around to reduce workload of the joint and prevents slow-onset joint pathologies.
It is vital to wear the right gear and use the proper equipment to avoid sports and heavy weightlifting related joint injuries, Afterall preventing chronic pain is easier than treating chronic pain.