Most people assume that having pain in the joint is a normal process of ageing, and they just have to learn to live with it. All too often, instead of seeking professional advice, many turn to pain killers or assume the pain will just go away.
The causes of joint pain are diverse and range from inflammation, traumatic injuries, infections, overloading or even genetic factors. It is also commonly perceived that severe joint pain comes with age. However, this is not necessarily true as people in their twenties and thirties can also start to experience joint problems.
Take 36-year-old Sue, an Administrative Executive, as an example.
As a running enthusiast, Sue jogs regularly and leads an active lifestyle. So, when she felt stiffness and aches in her knees, she thought it might be due to long periods of sitting at work or over exercising.
After many visits to the general practitioner and consistent taking of pain killers, her condition worsened and affected her daily life as she gradually found difficulty to get out of bed. She visited a specialist for advice when she noticed some swellings in her wrists and knees. From the results of a blood test and x-rays, she was told that she was suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Dr Chong Yong Yeow, Specialist in Rheumatology, Raffles Internal Medicine Centre comments, “Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a benign joint disease and this inflammation usually occurs in joints in a symmetrical fashion. If left untreated, it can cause her to develop cartilage and bone damage leading to joints deformities and may also cause an early death.” In Sue’s case, by seeking timely professional treatment, she was able to prevent disability.
Arthritis is a catch-all term that simply means inflammation of the joints. However, it is not a simple diagnosis as generally perceived. There are many different forms of arthritis and getting the right diagnosis and treatment are crucial in helping sufferers to minimise discomfort and prevent permanent damage to their joints.
While medications can relieve pain, they may also cause side effects such as stomach intolerance and kidney problems. Some other medications used to prevent further progression of the disease can also affect blood counts or the liver systems.
It is therefore recommended that sufferers of joint pain have a doctor monitor their condition regularly throughout the treatment process. Other than taking medications, they will also need to make some changes to their lifestyles by exercising and losing weight if they are overweight. They can work with a physiotherapist, who can develop an exercise programme that will aid them to improve strength and relieve pain.
Dr Chong adds, “Some joint aches and pains should not be overlooked as they can signal more sinister conditions. They can be related to connective tissue diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Sjogren’s Syndrome or underlying inflammatory muscle disease. These autoimmune diseases may also be associated with inflammation of other organ systems such as the kidney, lung, brain and heart. However, with early detection and diagnosis, the sufferer can receive appropriate treatment and reduce the risk of serious complications.”
Although usually non-threatening, it is important to seek help from a specialist when one experiences any kind of persistent joint pain or other unusual symptoms, for instance, prolonged joint stiffness which lasts through the day or persistent swelling of a joint as these can be features of an inflamed joint.
Says Dr Chong, “At Raffles Internal Medicine Centre, we are equipped with the latest medical technology and systems for diagnosis and treatment. Together with personalised attention and support through their treatment, we can help our patients reduce their risks of potential complications and prevent permanent joint damage.”