As a culture, we’ve been conditioned to accept that joint pain and arthritis are natural signs of aging and are to be expected. Many women I talk with accept this and over time when their pain intensifies, they reach for ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with pain. Many times I’ll see patients who will grow teary when talking about the activities they have stopped – like playing with their grandchildren, dancing, and sometimes even exercise.
Many things can lead to chronic joint pain – we have to remember that pain is your bodies’ way of sending a message – in this case the message is that it needs help. Taking away the pain with a pill is part of a solution, but to really help your body, you’ve got to get to the root cause of the pain.
There are many types of joints in the human body – fixed, hinge, ball and socket and pivot. A joint is how the bones are connected to each other by ligaments. Muscles are attached to those same bones by tendons – and both the ligaments and tendons are surrounded by protective sheaths. Surrounding each joint is a fluid filled protective pocket known as bursae and within the joint the bones have a protective lining made up of cartilage which help the bones move over each other easily. If any part of the joint is compromised – through trauma, injury or inflammation, you will experience pain.
There are many reasons joint pain can flare up seemingly suddenly. Many people look at arthritis as being a culprit. Its estimate that one in five Americans has been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, and there are over a hundred different arthritic conditions, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis worsens as the day wears on. This type of arthritis can be traced to a breakdown in your joint cartilage, and it’s linked with inflammation. Hips, knees, spine, hands and feet are most commonly affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a known autoimmune disease which causes inflammation in the fluid of the joint. It’s different from other forms of arthritis and presents with some identifying features:
- A hot or warm feeling in the joint
- Pain lasting through the night
- The same joint is affected on both sides of the body
- Stiffness that lasts for over 30 minutes upon waking
Many forms of joint pain involve inflammation – sometimes it’s local and other times it can be systemic. With joints, pain can come from overuse, or injury. If your body is working well, the inflammation will do it’s job to heal – and then will pass quickly. If inflammation persists and moves into a chronic state, there’s investigation to do!
Testing is now readily available for inflammatory markers such a C-reactive protein (CRP) to determine if patients are likely to develop inflammatory conditions. Trace amounts of CRP are present in a healthy body, but we can expect to see an increase in CRP with acute infection or injury. When elevated CRP levels exist for prolonged period of time, it’s a good indication that inflammation is present.
Treating elevated inflammation levels is something I’ve helped women with for many years. I recommend dietary changes and nutritional supplements and find that this combination works not only to alleviate pain, but to lower CRP levels.