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Joint Pain Matters 2021: what causes joint pain?

Joint Pain Matters 2021 examines the findings of a survey of 8545 people battling join pain. We asked participants about the key causes of their joint pain. Most respondents (65.18%) suffer from some form of arthritis — predominantly, osteoarthritis (37.12%). We take a closer look at common joint pain conditions and how to treat them.

Joint pain is a very common problem affecting millions of people in the UK. It ranges from mild to severe depending on the cause. It can often be devastating to manage.

Generally, joint pain refers to discomfort, aches, inflammation and pain in any of the body's 360 joints. 

Through our Joint Pain Matters 2021 survey, we asked 8545 people aged 16-75+ what living with joint pain is really like. 60% of respondents said they struggle to sleep with joint pain and 40% said that joint pain affects the people around them. 

We examine key pain management techniques for joint pain, as well as its potential causes.

Joint pain symptoms differ depending on which condition they are caused by.

For example, osteoarthritis causes joint tenderness, swelling and muscle weakness, while rhumaetoid arthritis causes throbbing and aching joint pain. General symptoms of joint pain include:

  • Aching pain;
  • Stabbing pain;
  • Heat across your joint;
  • Tenderness;
  • Swelling;
  • Stiffness, and
  • Weakness.

There are treatment options available to manage the many symptoms associated with joint pain. These include:

  • Steroid injections;
  • Capsaicin cream;
  • NSAIDs medication;
  • Capsa, and
  • Opioids such as codeine.

Joint pain has many causes, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, bursitis and frozen shoulder. Joint pain symptoms vary across these conditions — although they each have one factor in common — they are relentless and debilitating.

Joint Pain Matters 2021 found that various forms of arthritis are the leading cause of joint pain, with 65.18% of respondents having been diagnosed with one form of arthritis or another. Osteoarthritis is the most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis across men and women, with 37.12% of respondents having been diagnosed with the condition.

People in the early stages might not understand the underlying condition causing their joint pain. And while they could be suffering from one of the many forms of arthritis, it is also possible that could be suffering from another condition, such as shoulder impingement, bursitis or gout.

The key causes of joint pain include:

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting more than 8 million people. The condition occurs when the smooth cushion between bones (cartilage) breaks down, making joints painful, swollen and hard to move. Our survey found that 37.12% of respondents suffer from osteoarthritis.

Rhumeatoid arthritis (RA): In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory joint condition caused by an autoimmune process. This happens when the body attacks its healthy cells by mistake. This often causes painful swelling and stiffness.

Gout: According to the UK Gout Society, gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints, where they cause a type of arthritis called gouty arthritis. One in 40 people suffer with gout in the UK (2.5%). Gout often begins in the big toe and spreads to other joints. Only 1.65% of our survey respondents suffer from gout. 

Psoriatic arthritis: Only 2% of people suffer with psoriasis the UK, according to the NHS. The National Psoriasis Foundation states that psoriatic arthritis affects around 30% of people with psoriasis. Only 2.13% of our survey respondents suffer from this form of arthritis, which is a long-term condition that gets progressively worse (making early diagnosis key to managing symptoms).

Shoulder impingement: According to a study published by the Oxford Shoulder and Elbow Clinic, 20% of people will experience symptoms of shoulder impingement during their lifetime. The exact percentage of people living with shoulder impingement in the UK is unclear. Only 0.05% of our survey respondents have shoulder impingement. It happens when the tendon (a band of protective tissue) inside the shoulder rubs or catches on nearby tissue and bone as a person lifts their arm.

Bursitis: According to a 2018 study by the National Centre of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 1 in 10,000 people suffer from bursitis in the UK every year (0.01%). Bursitis happens when the fluid-filled sacs (bursa) that protect your joints from wear and tear become inflamed. Only 3.34% of our survey respondents suffer from bursitis.

Tennis elbow: According to the NHS, tennis elbow affects 1% to 3% of the population. This is often caused by the overuse of the muscles of in the forearm, near the elbow joint.  Although only 3.17% of our survey respondents have tennis elbow, respondents told us that elbow pain has the largest impact on people’s work and social life.

While there are many joint pain conditions, symptoms are most commonly caused by some form of arthritis. Finding the right treatment option is key to managing pain and making the most of daily life. 

There are several forms of joint pain surgery and treatment options to treat joint pain, including:

AC joint repairs: The AC joint is most commonly damaged as a result of injury or trauma.The aim of this surgical repair is to reconstruct the damaged ligaments and to remove the damaged end of the clavicle, restoring stability and range of motion in your joint while reducing pain.

Steroid injection therapy: Injection therapy is the injection of steroid (corticosteroid) medications into painful joints or soft tissues to reduce pain and inflammation in that area.

Hip replacement surgery: Your consultant orthopaedic surgeon will make an incision on the side of your hip and will completely remove the damaged ball and socket, which will then be replaced with an artificial joint.

Kneecap joint replacement surgery: A kneecap replacement operation is a procedure to replace the patella (kneecap) in the knee joint. The procedure involves replacing damaged bone and cartilage with plastic or metal components.

Hip debridement surgery: Hip debridement surgery offers the correction of an abnormality in the hip joint where there may be excessive bone or abnormal tissue present.

More than two thirds (69.67%) of Joint Pain Matters 2021 respondents use some sort of medication to treat and manage joint pain. An oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can be used alongside or substituted for paracetamol to help people manage pain.

Speak with your Consultant about the range of medication available for joint pain, as well as which treatment option is best for you.

If you’re suffering with joint pain and would like help to manage your symptoms or diagnose your problem, we’re here to help.

You can book a consultation with one of our orthopaedic consultants online, or call us on 0808 296 4259.

To download your copy of Joint Pain Matters 2021 for more expert commentary and analysis, click here

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