Causes of Joint Pain

In the human spine, and in the other joints of the musculoskeletal system, there are many possible causes of joint pain. The cause of joint pain may be due to infection, disease, trauma and injury to the connective tissues, wear and tear type degenerative conditions, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Prevention and treatment of joint conditions is essential to make sure that the damage does not become irreversible. Some of the causes of joint pain will be examined here.

In the human body, a joint is structure where two bones contact one another. The structure that connects the two bones typically involves cartilage and lubricating tissues to ensure that the two bones are in close association with one another without the bones themselves wearing each other out. The material between the bones and the connective tissues, such as the ligaments and tendons, hold adjacent bones together and allow for movements of the bones. Some of the causes of joint pain are due to inflammatory diseases which cause the joint tissues between the bones to become worn out, causing friction between the bones and subsequent pain. Other conditions that result in joint pain include inflammatory diseases which cause our own immune systems to attack and destroy our own joints. Examples of inflammatory conditions with are associated with joint tissue destruction include rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. System conditions which cause joint tissue destruction are not yet fully understood, yet medical science has advanced far enough to have isolated specific genes thought to be responsible for specific inflammatory types of arthritis. For example, it has been discovered that most people with inflammatory arthritic conditions such as Seronegative spondyloarthropathy and Reiter's Syndrome test positive for the HLA-B27 antigen, which is found on chromosome 6 in the human genome.

Let's take a look at some of the most common causes of joint pain.

Gout and Pseudogout: Gout is a treatable form of arthritis that may occur in several types of joints, though they usually affect the joints of the big toe and foot. The joint at the back of the big toe (1st metatarso-phalangeal joint) is the joint that is most often affected by gout. With this condition, there are a variety of possible factors which result in a buildup of uric acid crystals in the bloodstream. Many of these crystals eventually leave the bloodstream and build up in the joint of the big toe.

Some human factors which result in the buildup of uric acid crystals in the bloodstream include:
  • Diet: There is a high correlation between uric acid levels and people who have a diet that is rich in seafood, meat, high sugar beverages, and alcohol.

  • Genetic Risk: There is a high correlation between people who have gout and people who have one of these three genes: ABCG2, SLC22A12, or SLC2A9.

  • Obesity: Patients who are considered medically obese have a higher risk of contracting the condition of Gout. Patients with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 35 or greater are three times as likely to develop symptoms.

  • Kidney Disease: Patients with compromised kidney function are at in increased risk, especially since healthy kidneys are responsible for filtering uric acid out of the bloodstream. Patients with renal failure are more likely to contract Gout than healthy individuals.

  • Other Diseases and Medical Conditions: Patients with psoriasis, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, hemolytic anemia, and insulin resistance are at an elevated risk of developing Gout symptoms.

  • Medications that put patients at an increased risk for Gout include the immunosuppressive drugs tacrolimus and ciclosporin, acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), niacin, and hydrochlorothiazide.

Symptoms: Symptoms include redness, hotness, tenderness, and pain of the affected joint. The swelling of the joint may be significant enough that it is visibly larger than normal, sometimes 2-3 times its normal size. Joints in the knee, hand, heel, wrist and fingers may be affected, though about half of all cases involve the joint of the big toe.

Treatment for Gout: Immediate treatment for Gout is important in order to flush the uric acid crystals out of the joints before they may result in permanent damage of that joint. The medications for Gout are either meant to relieve pain or to lower the Uric acid levels in the blood. Some of the most common medications include NSAIDs, steroids (glucocorticoids), Colchicine, Pegloticase, allopurinol, and sulfinpyrazone.

Rickets: While many of the diseases mentioned above involve wear and tear type conditions or inflammatory disease that come people are genetically predisposed to, Rickets is a condition that is caused by a nutritional deficiency. Rickets is a condition which involves the weakening and bowing of the weight-bearing bones due to a prolonged Vitamin D deficiency. In humans, healthy bones are those with a high bone mineral density, especially of elements such as calcium and phosphorous. In humans, Vitamin D promoted the absorption of these two minerals, from the GI tract, where they travel from the bloodstream and are absorbed from the bones.