Joint pain is a complex topic that covers everything from shoulder injuries to arthritis. It can be a harmless condition that resolves quickly, a joint infection, or a long-term problem like osteoarthritis.
In general, any sudden onset joint pain (especially those with no obvious cause) should always be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. For other types of joint pain, here are a few questions to ask your doctor.
1- What pain medication is best for me right now?
Over-the-counter pain medications are a good place to start for treating joint pain. NSAIDs, also known as Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, are a class of drugs that include things like Aspirin, Diclofenac (Voltaren), and Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
NSAIDs are one of the most effective ways to keep joint pain to a minimum. But like all medications, they are also powerful drugs that should not be taken on a regular basis for long periods of time. Furthermore, if you find yourself taking these medications for more than two weeks in a row then speak to your doctor about safer alternatives.
2- Is there anything else I can do to relieve my pain besides taking painkillers?
Yes. These days, more people are aware of natural or alternative methods of achieving pain relief and listed below are some ideas. Be sure to speak to your doctor about them first to make sure that they’re suitable for your particular case. You can try:
- Massage (of the affected joint/muscle area)
- Supplements with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are found in fish oils and can reduce inflammation associated with conditions like arthritis.
- Physical activity like walking, yoga, or swimming
- Supplements like glucosamine or chondroitin which can help with joint inflammation
3- What should I do if my symptoms worsen?
If you’ve already been to the doctor, then hopefully they put together a follow-up plan with specific guidance on what to do if your pain worsens.
If not, then use the following tips as a guideline for when to seek medical advice. You should talk to your doctor if:
- You’ve had the pain longer than 2 weeks
- You’re having to take over-the-counter pain medications on a regular/daily basis
- The pain is affecting a larger area or starting to take a toll on your day-to-day activities
- New symptoms appear
- There was no initial obvious cause for the pain and it’s getting worse
When it comes to joint pain always err on the side of caution, and if in doubt , seek advice from your doctor.
4- What is the prognosis?
The underlying cause of the joint pain will determine the prognosis. Acute joint pain that is caused by a sprain, an overuse injury, or a tear will probably heal after a few weeks. With good joint care, pain medication and possibly physiotherapy, this type of joint pain should resolve after a short period of time.
Unfortunately, other joint conditions like arthritis do not have a known cure. Osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of joints that happens naturally over time. Instead, conditions like this are managed with lifestyle changes and pain management techniques.