Joints, they’re what allow your arms to embrace a loved one, your knees to bend and jump over a gap, your fingers to hold an eating utensil, and to sit in a chair. With 360 joints in the human body, that’s a lot of movement and flexibility many of us take for granted. But what can you do when one, or many of those joints cause you severe pain?
Causes of Severe Joint Pain
Joint pain is simply caused by inflammation. Figuring out what caused the inflammation is the key to reducing that joint pain. Was it due to a major injury? Did you have a slight shift leading to a subluxation? A repetitive movement or exercise done inappropriately without supporting the body? Inflammation causing pain can even be caused by the foods you eat. Read the general description of conditions below, but don’t lose heart. Following, we’ll give you the good news!
Differing Approaches to Severe Joint Pain Conditions
Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine.1
Medical Approach: In this situation, many doctors seek to manage symptoms and don’t believe there is a cure. Lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy weight management are encouraged as well as other pain relievers.
The Wellness Way Approach: We believe the body has the capacity to heal. Why is the cartilage wearing down? Is there an area the body needs support to maintain cartilage? What is your general lifestyle? Are you in alignment or do you have subluxations causing more wear on joints than necessary? What type of exercise do you participate in? Is it supportive or detrimental to your body? We can take a look at all of these situations and more to help in determining the right strategy for your situation.
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune condition in which the immune response targets the joints causing inflammation, pain, and limited movement.
Medical Approach: While many doctors see this as an incurable condition, medications are generally prescribed to suppress the immune response. Pain relievers are given to help manage pain.
The Wellness Way Approach: Why is the body responding this way? What is triggering your immune response? That is the first step in figuring out how to not only manage symptoms, but in most cases help the body restore health.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a closed, fluid-filled sac that works as a cushion and gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body. The major bursae (this is the plural of bursa) are located next to the tendons near the large joints, such as in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.2 Bursitis occurs in joints used in repetitive movements.
Medical Approach: Rest, pain relievers, and ice are common recommendations. Surgery is rarely, but sometimes, used.
The Wellness Way Approach: What are the movements that you are doing to cause the inflammation and discomfort? Is your body structurally in alignment? Do you need to work on strengthening supporting muscles? Do you have additional inflammation from other sources?
Gout is a common and complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone. It’s characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in one or more joints, most often in the big toe. Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines which are usually found in certain foods including red meat, seafood, alcohol, and sugar.3
Medical Approach: Pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids are commonly used to treat gout. Some doctors will also prescribe medications to prevent future gout complications. Many of these drugs have unpleasant side effects that can either target the same areas of the body as the gout, or others.
The Wellness Way Approach: What is the cause of the high levels of uric acid? What does the body need to support the process of flushing it? Are there specific foods that are triggering your body?
Injury is usually caused by an accident. Some injuries don’t surface for weeks or months after the initial accident. Sometimes the body compensates for the injury, causing other areas of the body to fill in for underperforming muscles or joints. This referred pain can cause further injury and inflammation.
Medical Approach: The type of injury will determine the course of treatment. Some possibilities are ice, rest, pain relievers, or prescription pain meds, and in some cases surgery, physical therapy, or assistance devices.
The Wellness Way Approach: A Wellness Way practitioner will also assess the injury to determine the course of treatment and how to best support the body in its healing.
Common Does Not Mean Normal
Just because many of these sources of severe joint pain are common, does not mean they are normal, or that you have to live with them. Or depend on a prescription and hopeless diagnosis for life. While these conditions may be considered normal by many people, they are not normal. Figuring out what is causing the joint pain in your life and how to support your body to restore health may be an uncommon way to handle joint pain, but it should be normal! After all, we do health differently!