Understanding joint pain

What causes joint pain?

Let’s start from the beginning and talk about what a joint is and how it works!

A joint is where two or more bones meet (fingers, knees, elbows). Most of the joints in our body are surrounded by a strong capsule. This capsule is filled with a thick fluid that helps to lubricate the joint. The capsule holds our bones in place, they do this with the help of ligaments. The ends of the bones within a joint are lined with cartilage.

Arthritis is used to describe pain, swelling and stiffness in a joint or joints. This can be caused by a number of things including:
– Being overweight
– Malalignment of the joints
– A sports injury

Joint pain is not an inevitable result of ‘wear and tear’, to hear more about this click the video to play:

What is a joint pain flare-up?

Day-to-day joint pain usually feels like a dull ache, but a flare-up can be a much more painful episode and is often accompanied by swelling and stiffness, usually lasting for a few days.

A flare-up can happen to anyone at any age and be caused by anything from playing sport to lifting heavy objects or over stretching. Joint pain flare-ups can also happen if you lead an inactive lifestyle or are overweight.

Dr. Fraser Birrell does not directly endorse the use of Flarin or any other medicines.

’Im Doctor Fraser Birrell, I’m a consultant Rheumatologist with Northumbria Healthcare and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer with the musculoskeletal research group at Newcastle University, where we are involved with lots of studies with Arthritis Research UK.

Many people that I see who suffer from joint pain, in their 40s onwards, believe it’s caused by decades of general ‘wear and tear’ on the joints.
This isn’t true. A crucial thing to understand is that if it was ‘wear and tear’ then we would all develop arthritis if we lived long enough, and that’s simply not the case.

Years of research into arthritis and other related musculoskeletal conditions have replaced this outdated, inaccurate and very negative view with fresh scientific evidence and thinking and now we use the terms ‘tear, flare and repair’ to describe what is actually happening.

So, what we need to understand is what are the key factors which are leading to and causing these episodes of inflammation and leading to the episodes of pain.
That includes malalignment of the joints, for example if you’ve got malalignment where your knee throws out to the side and it puts more pressure of the outside, that can lead to pain and pressure.
Obesity increases the load. Specific types of overuse where you’re using your joint more than it’s designed to be used, and sudden movements and particularly those that lead to injury and strain.
Those are all potentially factors.

It’s very common for patients to tell me that they get dull pain the whole time, or some of them will be pain free, and then they’ll get a bad episode of pain, a flare, where the pain goes right up and that has big effects on your function, and your day to day activities as well.

What happens is, it’s the cumulative damage from repeated injuries, and some of them are true injuries which would lay you up, and some of them are subclinical injuries.
The important thing is if they lead to an imbalance in the normal functioning of the joint, the normal alignment, that’s what increases the load, that’s what increases the pressure, that drives the inflammation, that causes the pain and causes the damage to the joint over time.