Don't Ignore Severe Joint Pain; Treatments Are Available

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Hayden Head, MD

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A to Z: Don't Ignore Severe Joint Pain; Treatments Are Available

Don't Ignore Severe Joint Pain; Treatments Are Available

February 07, 2017
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It’s easy to ignore an occasional ache or pain in your knee or shoulder. You take an ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) and that normally eases the discomfort.

But if joint pain becomes severe enough to limit your movement and affect your life, it’s time to see your doctor.

Wear and tear, autoimmune processes, inflammation, and infections can trigger joint pain.

Osteoarthritis is the culprit much of the time. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage or cushion between joints breaks down, which leads to pain, stiffness – especially first thing in the morning or after resting – and swelling.

It can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), other pain medications, injections, physical therapies, and braces to support the affected joints.

Talk to your doctor if your joint pain was caused by trauma (a twisted ankle, for example), or if pain appears suddenly, is accompanied by fever, or is so severe that it limits your daily activities. See your healthcare provider if the joint is
swollen or is hot or painful to the touch.

Be prepared to answer questions about how long you’ve had the pain, which joints are affected, what worsens or relieves the pain, when the pain is most noticeable, and whether you have any family history of similar pain. After an examination, your physician may ask you to go for testing.

Treatment depends on the cause of your joint pain. For example, septic arthritis is caused by an infection in the joint and is treated with antibiotics. If you need intravenous (IV) antibiotics, you may be hospitalized.

Gouty arthritis, usually an extremely painful attack with a rapid onset of joint inflammation, is caused by a buildup of crystals in the joint. Treatment includes NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen; changing your diet; and sometimes steroids or additional therapies to prevent future episodes.

Regardless of the cause, your healthcare provider can treat most arthritis pain. If needed, he or she can refer you to
specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons or rheumatologists.

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