Arthritis pain is sometimes confused with other sorts of joint pain. When a joint that is not arthritic is causing discomfort, often it is because the joint is too stiff or is moving too much. This is called mechanical joint pain. “Choosing what sort of pain you have is important so that you can get the right treatment as soon as possible” says Brighton chiropractor, Matthew Bennett.
Mechanical Joint Pain
Mechanical joint problems are caused by the bangs and knocks of everyday life or by an accident leading to injury. If the injured joint is stiff and moving to little then it is called hypomobility. If the joint has become lax and is moving too much it is called hypermobility. In both of these cases the joint can become inflamed and painful. If this goes on long enough the nerve endings in and around the joint can become sensitised to pain leading to yet more agony. If this occurs in the spine it can cause Facet Joint Syndrome.
When the nerve endings get irritated in this way the body’s movement sensors send alter the messages to the brain. The technical name for this body awareness is proprioception.
Mechanical joint ache is often worse with certain positions like standing for long time but it tends to be eased with rest. Although you might be stiff initially after arrest generally mechanical joint problems are better with gentle activity.
Inflammatory Joint Pain
Inflammatory joint pain is due to one of the many sorts of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis. In this sort of inflammatory arthritis often the joint itself is attacked by the body’s autoimmune response. The joint cartilage is attacked and the joint becomes inflamed and painful. In this sort of arthritis the discomfort is often worse with activity and the more you do the worse it gets.
Diagnosing the difference between mechanical joint pain and inflammatory arthritis can often be quite tricky. Indeed, sometimes you can have both going on at the same time. Inflammatory arthritis often shows up on blood tests, whereas mechanical joint pain does not. X-rays and MRI imaging often don’t help much, especially in the early stages.
People with inflammatory arthritis tend to have other symptoms as well like general muscle aches and pains all over the body and the symptoms tend to affect both arms as well as legs symmetrically. Mechanical joint pain on the other hand, will often only affect one or two joints, often on one limb. You can of course have both types of joint problems.
Treatment of Inflammatory Versus Mechanical Joint Pain
Inflammatory joint problems tends to be treated with strong drugs like steroids or specific anti-arthritis drugs. Mechanical joint pain on the other hand, can be helped with a combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as physical treatments like chiropractic, physiotherapy and exercises.
In mechanical joint pain, it is important to get prompt treatment. If the symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks. Most mechanical joint problems will get better within a week or two. So if it isn’t it may be starting to become chronic and long-lasting. Indeed 4/5 people who have an episode of back pain and don’t get proper treatment still have grumbling back ache a year later.
In both inflammatory and mechanical joint problems laser treatment can be helpful. It is painless and completely safe. In fact NICE, the clinical guidelines watchdog, have recommended it for osteoarthritis of, for example, the knee.
If you have a problem and would would like to know exactly what is causing it then call us for a free check with our physio’s or chiropractors. We’ll give you a brief examination and we should be able to tell you what you have and what you can do about it.