Role/implication of inflammation in joint pain

Inflammation can affect any part of the body and normally occurs when the immune system reacts against a potential threat. Understanding inflammation and its effects is an important part of managing joint pain.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a process where the body’s immune response works to protect us from stress, infection or injury. When the body senses a danger, our immune system seeks to destroy the virus, chemical or foreign body by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues. It does this by increasing blood flow to the affected area, increasing fluid production and producing chemicals of its own that should help the body to repair itself.

What are the implications?

When the immune cells in our body start to overreact beyond what is necessary to fight a perceived infection or danger, inflammation can work against us. This can result in damage to healthy body tissue, causing joint pain.

When inflammation affects the joints it’s likely to cause:

  • Unusual warmth and reddening over the affected joints due to increased blood flow
  • Excessive fluid production within the joint, causing swelling and stiffness
  • Irritation of nerve endings, leading to pain

What are the long term effects?

In autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation can take place without any apparent trigger. Differing from non-inflammatory joint pain, the inflammation associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause severe fatigue, energy loss and general ‘flu’ like symptoms such as headaches and fever.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint problem. When the cartilage which covers the ends of the bones is damaged, (usually due to heavy use of the affected joint) pain and stiffness can occur. Though less is known about the role of inflammation in osteoarthritis, it is now recognised as a cause of flare-ups of pain in joints affected by the condition.

In either case, repeated episodes of inflammation in a joint can lead to the weakening of tendons, ligaments and muscles. The capsule surrounding the joint may become stretched by repeated swelling, affecting the stability of the joint. In the long term, this may cause tissue damage, joint deformation and pain.


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Further info:

http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/arthritis/what-is-arthritis.aspx – for more about inflammatory forms of arthritis

http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/health-professionals-and-students/reports/topical-reviews/topical-reviews-autumn-2011.aspx – for more about inflammation in osteoarthritis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638313/ – inflammation in osteoarthritis

5 ways to manage back pain

Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability across the UK and will likely affect most people at some point in their lives. Though a common ailment, managing back pain can be painful and frustrating, making even the smallest of tasks challenging. These simple tips will help you to manage symptoms and minimise the disruption back pain may cause to your everyday life.

  1. Ready, Steady, Stretch – Our bodies are made to move, so whether your sitting at a desk or watching TV on the couch, make sure to keep moving. Take a walk during the advertisements to stretch your muscles, or try a powerwalk during your lunchbreak. Be mindful of your posture and sit up straight at your desk or in your seat at home, so your spine can more easily support your weight.
  2. Rethink your mattress – Your mattress can be detrimental to the development or worsening of back pain. An old or bad quality mattress will lack proper support, leading to poor posture and strained muscles. Find a mattress that hugs your natural curves and supports the alignment of your spine, ensuring less pain when you wake up in the morning and a sounder sleep, too! Finding a pillow that provides effective head, neck and shoulder support is equally as important in the management of back pain.
  3. Thai Chi – This ancient Chinese martial art combines breathing exercises with gentle and fluid movements. With a focus on posture, balance, strength and flexibility, the slow and fluid actions can help to improve spinal alignment and stiffness. The practice of purposeful breathing has also been proven to decrease stress, anxiety and other emotional symptoms triggered by chronic pain.
  4. Water Therapy – Water therapy consists of a number of conditioning exercises which take place in a pool, and classes such as water aerobics are recommended for those suffering from back pain. The buoyancy of the water helps to support weight and reduce pressure, whilst providing the gentle resistance needed for strength and conditioning without risk of further injury.
  5. Massage – Frequent massages can be very effective for lower back pain. An increase in blood flow to the affected area can escalate the level of nutrients and oxygen to damaged zones, helping to relieve stiffness and muscle spasms. If you don’t have time to schedule in a massage, rolling a tennis ball over the affected area can also help to relieve any stiffness and muscle knots.

The good news is that a good pamper can stimulate healing processes, improve damaged sleeping patterns and reduce anxiety. These easy steps will help you to take greater care of your mind and body.


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