The joints in our body help us perform many functions that involve mobility. Wear-and-tear and injury, however, can affect the joints, manifesting as pain or discomfort.
The joint is made up of tissues such as cartilage and ligaments that connect the bones to each other. There are different types of joints, for example the knee is a hinge joint that bends and straightens while the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint where one rounded end rotates into a cup-shaped area of another bone.
Some joints allow movements to happen between articulating bones while others provides skeletal structure support. When a disease or injury damages the joints, it can impair movement and cause pain. This usually happens to older people and athletes, but can happen to anyone. The common joint issues are arthritis, dislocation and tears.
DETECTION & SYMPTOMS
Detecting joint disorders can be as simple as waking up one morning with severe stiffness and joint pain, which can be a build-up from months or years. Reddened or knobbly joints are physical signs of inflammation in the joints.
Inflammation And Arthritis: In the United States, one in five adults have arthritis and almost 10% of them are physically limited from it. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint, it is reddened and you will feel pain, heat, swelling, and loss of function. An inflammation is a protective response to a harmful stimulus such as pathogens or physical trauma by directing immune cells, blood and other molecular mediators to clear out damaged or dead cells and begin tissue repair.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, typically affecting weight-bearing joints such as the knee, back and hip. Osteoarthritis is degenerative and acquired from the wear and tear of the joint, so it often affects the elderly. It starts with the erosion of the cartilage between the bones, which then make the bones grind against each other and corrode.
Other forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, often associated with morning joint stiffness, on top of the classical signs of arthritis.
GOUT: Gout is another type of joint inflammation and about half of the time it affects the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout results from an elevated level of uric acid in the blood, causing it to crystallise and settle in the joint. A diagnosis can be confirmed by signs of crystal deposits in the joint fluid and the presence of the classic symptoms of joint inflammation. Gout is common among those who are big meat eaters or beer drinkers.
Bursitis: Another form of inflammation is bursitis, which flares up the fluid-filled sac that cushions the joint. The sac, known as a bursa, can get inflamed as a result of overusing a joint or from physical injury, such as from kneeling for prolonged periods on a hard surface. It often occurs at the knee or elbow.
Sprain & Dislocation: The World Health Organisation identified that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing around 3.2 million deaths globally, adding that adequate levels of physical activity will decrease the risk of hip or vertebral fracture and help control weight.
A sprain, which can happen when you fall or pivot the body in an awkward way that forces your joints out of its normal position, will cause a stretch or tear in a ligament. The ligament is an elastic tissue that connects bones to each other. It strains under tension and returns to its original form when tension is removed. When pushed beyond its functional range of motion, it can a tear or completely rupture.
You will notice pain, bruising and swelling very quickly and have difficulties moving the joint. If a ligament ruptures, you will probably also hear the sound of it snap.
A sprain will require a physical examination to accurately assess the severity of the injury. Besides that, imaging tests for x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) will reveal crucial information to confirm your diagnosis.
If a forceful blow is applied to the joint usually by falling or external impact, the joint can be dislocated from the normal position. You will know your joint is dislocated if you feel intense pain, redness and difficulty to move the joint. The affected area may also look deformed. Because the shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion in the body, it is particularly vulnerable to dislocation.
If it is an acute inflammation caused by traumatic injury or overuse, the first line of treatment is resting and icing the affected area. But if it is caused by autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus or diabetes, you will need medical intervention.
So, if you don’t see any improvement, you should visit a doctor who will decide if you need medication, surgery or physiotherapy to manage your condition and to avoid irreversible loss of function. On the other hand, a dislocated joint or a torn ligament is an emergency. If you have or suspect that you have one, you should seek immediate medical attention.