What are some of the common causes of joint pain?

x-ray of feet

Do you listen with horror as your knees crack and pop, and is getting down the stairs a major achievement of the day?

Well, signs of ageing often show up in the joints, but what is actually happening?

There are a number of reasons your joints could be stiff and sore. Here are some more common causes.

That old story

As you age, the cartilage – that spongy material between your joints that makes sure your bones don’t rub together – begins to dry out, thin and stiffen. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough, your body produces less synovial fluid as you age. What’s that? Well I had no idea either, but synovial fluid acts like a lubricant to keep your joints moving freely. It looks like egg white apparently.

Anyway, less lubricating synovial fluid, more joint pain and stiffness.

Although it can go the other way, too much synovial fluid and you have joint pain and stiffness.

For these issues, the best treatment is use it or lose it. Keep being active to keep the cartilage and fluid flexible.

Wakey, wakey

Your joints will be stiff in the morning because the fluids that help your joints move around are waking up too.

Not much you can do but, once again, start moving.

Knuckle down

Osteoarthritis is the result of joints rubbing together and the cartilage wearing away, and then the bones hit one another. Sometimes tiny pieces of bone break off. 

Not surprisingly, it results in painful, swollen joints, most often in the knees, hips, fingers, big toes, ankles and spine.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but you can manage the symptoms through exercise, healthy eating and weight loss.

If you are exercising, avoid any activity that puts too much stress on the joint such as running if you have osteoarthritis in your knees. Swimming is ideal.

There are some pain management options, but consult your doctor first.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune condition and like osteoarthritis there is no cure.

RA is the result of your immune system attacking healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation. 

If you think you have RA, go straight to your doctor. They will be able to refer you to a specialist. 

The sooner you are treated, the less likely you will experience permanent joint damage or deformity.

Skin in the game

We haven’t finished with arthritis quite yet. You’ve probably heard of the two types above, but a lesser-known one is psoriatic arthritis (PA) . 

People with psoriasis are highly likely to develop PA. It causes red, scaly patches on the skin as well as pain and stiffness in the joints. An unwelcome addition is that your nails may thicken, become chunky or change colour.

Once again, there is no cure, and scientists aren’t even terribly sure what causes it.

Do see your doctor, because you might be able to get a referral for some specialist care.

In the meantime, eat well, exercise regularly and, if you’re a smoker, quit smoking.

Nanna was right

Remember when the older people in your life used to complain about the weather affecting their joints? For so long it was thought of as an old wives’ tale, but it turns out they were right. Although no one can pin down why.

According to Harvard University, it may be that changes in barometric pressure triggers changes in the joints.

Another hypothesis is that cold, damp weather can worsen joint pain and stiffness, especially if you are not exercising because of the weather.

Do you suffer from joint pain? What do you do to alleviate it? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Back (pain) to the future. Experts warn of increase

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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