Aching joints are unpleasant aching, pulling sensations in the area of articular joints, the intensity of which sometimes reaches the degree of pain. The symptom is combined with muscle aches, weakness, bruising, crunching, limited movements and may precede joint pain (arthralgia). Joint pain is accompanied by lesions of the musculoskeletal system, infections, diseases of the hematopoiesis system, vascular pathology. To identify the cause of the disorder, laboratory tests, ultrasound, radiographic and invasive methods are used. Treatment involves the therapy of the disease that provoked the ache.
Causes of aching joints
Mild or moderate joint discomfort is not always a manifestation of the pathological process. Sometimes the symptom has natural causes. Transient joint pain is felt when wearing uncomfortable shoes, in weather-sensitive people – when the weather changes. At puberty, aching sensations in the shoulder and knee joints are caused by their insufficient blood supply due to accelerated bone growth.
Significant physical activity
With intensive training, performing hard work, a common cause of the symptom is overstrain of the musculoskeletal system, less often it is caused by microtrauma of cartilage, synovial membrane. A typical combination of aches in the joints and unpleasant sensations in the bones, muscles. Joint and muscle discomfort occurs immediately after shock physical exertion or against the background of prolonged monotonous work with constant tension of the same muscle groups. The ache in the joints of the body proceeds without temperature. With large overloads, a moderate violation of the general condition, fragility is possible.
The disorder can bother for up to several days and, with limited motor activity, gradually decreases until it completely disappears without any treatment. If the ache that has arisen as a result of sports or hard physical work is replaced by persistent soreness, swelling in the area of the wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee and hip joints, restriction of habitual movements, it is necessary to visit a doctor.
The causes of moderate aching in bones and joints in the elderly are degenerative processes with loss of calcium, thinning of bone beams, impaired blood supply to cartilage and a decrease in the volume of intra-articular fluid. Mild discomfort is only the first manifestation of senile joint damage. Usually, periodic discomfort is noted after 45-50 years. By the age of 60-65, unpleasant aches occur even with minor loads, accompanied by stiffness of movements, stooping, shuffling gait, gradually replaced by pain.
Complaints of joint aches are more often presented in the second half of the gestational period. Pulling, aching discomfort, as a rule, is felt in the joints of the pelvis, lower extremities. It increases by the end of the day, after standing for a long time or walking long distances. A night’s rest eases the condition. Pain in the joints during pregnancy is provoked by such reasons as:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency. The greatest role is played by calcium and vitamin D deficiency, which leads to osteomalacia. A feature of the manifestation of the symptom is a feeling of aching not only in the joints, but also in the bones, rapid fatigue, the presence of other signs of hypocalcemia and hypovitaminosis D – caries, brittle nails, muscle weakness, muscle pain, frequent occurrence of ARVI.
- Significant weight gain. Joint discomfort often worries pregnant women with a large weight gain or obese. The ache at the end, and eventually in the middle of the day, is felt in the hip joints, knees, ankles, whose cartilages are experiencing loads several times higher than permissible. To alleviate the condition, women deliberately restrict motor activity, which leads to even faster weight gain.
- Softening of cartilage and ligaments. Unpleasant sensations in the joints of the pelvis caused by the action of the hormone relaxin are experienced by about half of pregnant women. In most cases, the discomfort is in the nature of aches in the pubic area, hip joints. With a pathological course with the development of symphysitis, aching sensations are replaced by pain, which increases when pressing on the womb, trying to spread your legs, during sex. The appearance of soreness in the pubic area is a serious reason for a visit to an obstetrician-gynecologist.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. A specific manifestation found in 2-3 trimesters in almost 20% of pregnant women is the so-called tunnel syndrome. The cause of the disorder is swelling of the soft tissues of the hands and compression in the carpal canal of the nerves that pass to the fingers. In addition to aching aches in the small joints of the hand, patients complain of numbness of the skin, tingling, a feeling of crawling goosebumps. The condition improves with an elevated position of the hands.
Overweight people have increased pressure on the cartilage tissue, which is why it wears out faster. The degenerative-dystrophic process usually involves large joints of the lower extremities and intervertebral joints. The disorder increases as obesity progresses. Uncomfortable sensations in the joints first manifest themselves in the form of aches without temperature by the end of the day, then the increasing destruction of cartilage leads to the development of deforming arthrosis, spondylosis, osteochondrosis with a sharp pain syndrome that limits the patient’s motor activity.
Aches in the body and joints are one of the early (prodromal) signs of many acute respiratory infections. The main causes of joint discomfort are intoxication of the body during the spread of viruses and bacteria, the accumulation of toxins, the development of the inflammatory process. Usually the patient complains that the whole body is aching, mild and moderate pain is noted both in the articular joints and in the muscles, bones. The symptom is accompanied by weakness, weakness, insomnia, frequent awakenings. Simultaneously with the signs of aches and general malaise, chills and hyperthermia are observed.
The most pronounced pain in the joints and body with the flu. Up to 50% of patients experience constant aching pain in their legs, arms, and torso. The intensity of pain is so high that it becomes difficult for a person to perform the simplest actions — get out of bed, go to another room, raise a glass of water. The situation is aggravated by high (febrile) temperature and severe headaches. Soreness in the throat, nasal congestion are joined after a few hours and even days. Less joint discomfort occurs with parainfluenza, adenovirus infection.
A feeling of aching in the joints is possible with acute infectious lesions of the gastrointestinal tract – food toxicoinfections, salmonellosis. Aching joint pains of varying intensity appear suddenly a few hours after eating infected foods, combined with a sharp rise in temperature, pronounced chills, headaches. The ache precedes nausea, vomiting, abdominal soreness, fetid diarrhea with mucous and sometimes bloody impurities.
Joint aches are a harbinger of most diseases that occur with autoimmune inflammation of connective tissue, including articular tissue. Localization, prevalence, intensity of unpleasant sensations are determined by the characteristics of a particular collagenosis. Common patterns are the involvement of certain groups of joints in the process, a gradual increase in sensations to excruciating debilitating pain, observed first during movements, and then at rest. Possible deformation of articular joints. The main systemic inflammatory causes of the disorder:
- Rheumatism. The symptom is “volatile”: aching aches, and then pain is felt in turn in the large joints of the arms and legs — elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle. The affected areas are swollen. Joint discomfort is often preceded by angina. In the treatment of changes in the joints are reversible.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Unpleasant sensations appear more often after 40 years. A typical feeling of ache in the small joints of the hands, feet, combined with noticeable swelling, morning stiffness of movements. In the future, pain syndrome and curvature of the articular joints come to the fore.
- Systemic scleroderma. It is characterized by variable localization of aching sensations, the presence of stiffness in the morning in the joints of the hands, elbows, knees. Aches and pains are usually symmetrical. The swelling is short-lived. Due to sclerosis of the skin, the mobility of the articular joints is limited, the defeat of the tendons causes a feeling of friction during movements.
Pain syndrome in the initial stages of the disease is expressed slightly and is perceived as discomfort, aching in the joints of the legs, less often – hands. The immediate cause of osteoarthritis is dystrophy and destruction of cartilage tissue. Usually, pulling or aching sensations without temperature manifest themselves in adulthood and old age. The ache may begin earlier in the presence of occupational hazards (vibration, heavy physical labor). Gradually, the joints become stiff, a person experiences severe pain and difficulties when walking, taking care of himself.
The causes of metabolic disorders in which joint pain occurs are insufficient intake of vitamins, minerals, accelerated accumulation or excessive excretion of metabolic products. Unpleasant sensations are caused by inflammatory or dystrophic processes, have different severity and most often serve as a manifestation of such pathological conditions as:
Osteoporosis. When calcium is washed out of the bone tissue, the articular surfaces of the bones become brittle, the cartilage becomes thinner, which is accompanied by aching sensations. The pain syndrome increases gradually from mild aches to severe arthralgia, combined with unpleasant sensations in the bones, muscle weakness. The joints experiencing the maximum load are most often affected — the hip and knee, the shoulder, elbow, and ankle are less likely to suffer.
Gout. A slight ache in the big toe worries already at the preclinical stages of the gouty process. Possible aching discomfort in the knees, elbows, wrists, fingers. The accumulation of urates in the joint cavity leads to a rapid manifestation of the disease with the change of aches to acute excruciating joint pain that does not subside for several hours. The affected joint is hot to the touch. There is redness of the skin and restriction of movements.
In acute and chronic leukemia, widespread bone and joint ache, followed by pain, often occurs even before noticeable pathological changes in the general blood test and other clinical symptoms — general malaise, night sweats, fever, decreased appetite, bleeding. Unpleasant sensations are at first periodic aching, then constant strong, exhausting the patient.
Lymphogranulomatosis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are characterized by a combination of joint aches with muscle discomfort, weakness, enlarged lymph nodes, and other lymphoid formations. Aching sensations are common, usually moderately pronounced. A short period of aching in the knee joint and thigh muscles, which increases at night, under stress turns into a constantly increasing pain with lameness, is observed with osteosarcomas. Other joints with this pathology are affected less often.
Joint pain is provoked by mild traumatic injuries, in which damage to the ligaments surrounding the joint occurs, bruising of the soft tissues of the articular area occurs. More severe pain is bothered by damage to the menisci. The symptom is clearly connected in time with a blow, a fall, an awkward movement. Usually, discomfort is felt in one affected joint, less often spreads to adjacent areas of the body.
Chronic infectious processes
Possible causes of a feeling of aching in the joints that occurs without a temperature or against a background of subfebrility are long-term infections. In patients suffering from chronic infectious and inflammatory diseases, joint discomfort becomes a consequence of intoxication of the body or direct damaging effects on joint tissues of microorganisms (usually streptococci, mycoplasmas, chlamydia). The appearance or increase of pain may indicate an exacerbation of chronic tonsillitis, sinusitis, genitourinary infections, adnexitis, pyelonephritis.
The distinctive features of joint aches in general chronic infections occurring with intoxication are moderate severity of joint discomfort, gradual development, periodic strengthening and weakening of symptoms. In patients suffering from tuberculosis and hematogenous osteomyelitis, the background for the development of aching painful sensations is an increase in temperature to subfebrile figures, general malaise — fatigue, weakness, weakness. Without treatment, the condition of patients progressively worsens.
Complications of pharmacotherapy
Taking some medications may be complicated by aches, moderate soreness in small joints of the hands. Unpleasant sensations are not accompanied by redness or deformation of the articular joints. Patients may complain of aches in the muscles of the body, fever, skin rashes, and other manifestations of drug allergies. Discomfort quickly passes after the withdrawal of the drug that provoked it, less often special treatment of the complications that have arisen is required. Aches and mild arthralgia are caused by:
- Antibiotics: penicillins, fluoroquinolones.
- Tranquilizers: phenazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, etc.
- Contraceptives: combined oral contraceptives (COCs).
- Inflammation of the respiratory system: pneumonia, bronchitis, tracheitis.
- Intestinal pathology: ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease.
- Skin diseases: psoriasis.
- Endocrine disorders: diabetes mellitus, diffuse toxic goiter, hypothyroidism, Itsenko-Cushing’s disease.
- Autoimmune processes: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, vasculitis.
- Fascia lesion: necrotizing fasciitis in the stage of convalescence.
- Congenital defects of bones and joints.
To establish why the joints and bones are aching, it is necessary to consult a therapist or a family doctor who will conduct an initial diagnosis and prescribe examinations by specialized specialists. Taking into account the nature of unpleasant sensations, the speed of their occurrence, concomitant symptoms, it is recommended to find out the cause of the disorder:
- Laboratory examination of blood. Evaluation of the leukocyte formula and the level of ESR is required to exclude infections, inflammatory and oncohematological processes. In systemic diseases, it is important to measure the total protein content, the ratio of blood protein fractions, specific acute phase proteins, markers of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammations. Tests for the concentration of vitamins, electrolytes (especially calcium), uric acid help diagnose metabolic disorders.
- Bacteriological examination. Bakposev is necessary for the probable infectious origin of the ache felt in the joints and throughout the body. Urine, fecal matter, sputum, and urogenital tract discharge are selected for the study. To select an antimicrobial therapy regimen, sensitivity to antibiotics is determined. In doubtful cases, microscopy and seeding are supplemented with serological reactions (RIF, ELISA, PCR).
- Sonography of articular joints. It is usually used with a clear localization of painful sensations, the presumed presence of rheumatic diseases. Ultrasound of the joint allows you to examine its structure, identify the destruction of cartilage and bone, preclinical inflammatory changes, and study the condition of the periarticular soft tissues. The advantages of the method are accessibility, non-invasiveness, high information content.
- Radiological techniques. Changes in the width of the articular gap, compaction of soft tissues, the presence of calcifications, osteophytes, erosions of articular surfaces are detected during joint radiography. To improve the effectiveness of diagnostics, special techniques are used — contrast arthrography, pneumoarthrography. At the initial stages of the lesion, tomography (MRI, CT of the joints) is considered more indicative. It is convenient to assess bone density using densitometry.
- Invasive examination techniques. In some cases, to determine the cause of joint pain, a puncture is performed with a biopsy of cartilage, the inner lining of the synovial membrane, topuses. Morphological analysis of biopsies, examination of synovial fluid reflect the nature of pathological processes occurring in the joints. Simultaneous sampling of materials with visual examination of the articular cavity is convenient to do during arthroscopy with tissue biopsy.
A less frequent way to diagnose the cause of joint pain is scintigraphy with the introduction of technetium accumulated by the affected tissues. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in joint thermography as a modern non-invasive method for recognizing inflammatory diseases, tumors, circulatory disorders in joints and periarticular tissues. With a decrease in the number of shaped elements in the clinical blood analysis, an extra-articular bone puncture is performed. Patients with joint pain without fever are advised to consult a rheumatologist and an orthopedic traumatologist.
Help before diagnosis
With joint aches associated with physical activity, special treatment is not required, prolonged rest with dosing loads is sufficient. Unpleasant joint sensations that have arisen during pregnancy usually go away on their own after its completion or are corrected by weight control, taking vitamin and mineral preparations. Elderly and obese patients are shown to change their lifestyle: adequate motor activity, a diet of appropriate caloric content with a sufficient content of plant products.
Aches in the bones, joints and muscles in combination with general malaise and fever, increased aching and pulling sensations to the degree of severe pain, the development of persistent pain syndrome serve as indications for contacting a doctor. To reduce joint discomfort caused by acute respiratory viral infections, it is recommended to rest, drink enough water, rosehip decoctions, dried fruits. Until the exclusion of serious diseases that provoke pain in the joints, self-medication with painkillers, prolonged ineffectual application of compresses, lotions, decoctions, etc., is unacceptable.
The correct treatment aimed at eliminating the cause of the disorder and individual links of the mechanism of its development allows you to get rid of joint pain. Etiopathogenetic therapy is usually supplemented with symptomatic medications that quickly reduce the severity of pulling and aching pain. The treatment regimen for diseases occurring with joint pain may include:
- Antimicrobial drugs. The basic therapy of infections is based on the appointment of antibiotics to which the pathogen is susceptible. In severe cases, broad-spectrum medications are used before the sensitivity of the microorganism is established.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Reduce the production of inflammatory mediators and thereby inhibit inflammatory processes in the joints. By acting on the central pain receptors, they reduce the degree of joint discomfort. They are used in the form of tablets, ointments, gels.
- Corticosteroids. They have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Hormone therapy is the basis for the treatment of systemic collagenoses. In severe and resistant forms of diseases, corticosteroid drugs are combined with immunosuppressants to enhance the effect.
- Chondroprotectors. They act as a substrate for the synthesis of proteoglycans, with a sufficient amount of which the elasticity of articular cartilage increases. Nourish cartilage tissue and restore its damaged structure. Intra-articular administration of drugs is possible.
- Xanthine oxidase inhibitors. They are used as anti-gout agents. Block the key enzyme necessary for the synthesis of uric acid, thereby reducing its concentration in the body, contribute to the dissolution of existing urate deposits.
- Vitamin and mineral complexes. Recommended for the treatment of joint aches caused by metabolic disorders. The most commonly used drugs containing calcium, vitamin D. are also an element of complex therapy for inflammatory, metabolic diseases.
- Chemotherapeutic agents. They serve as the basis of most treatment regimens for various types of oncohematological pathology. Depending on the clinical variant and severity of the neoprocess, they are combined with radiotherapy and surgical interventions.
After the exact clarification of the cause of the ache and the subsiding of acute inflammation, patients, except those suffering from oncopathology, are prescribed physiotherapy and physical therapy classes. A good anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect is provided by sessions of microwave and ultrasound therapy, electrophoresis, pulse currents. In case of chronic pathology, physiotherapy treatment is carried out for several months and is supplemented with spa therapy.