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Arthralgia - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Types

Updated on December 25, 2013

What is Arthralgia?

Arthralgia is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation of the joint. The joint pain perceived can be described as soreness with every joint movement which can be quite debilitating and discomforting.

Joints are connection of two or more bones that allows for movements while providing for mechanical support. The skull is the only part of the body where joint movement is not allowed. Joints are classified according to its structure by the type of tissues are binding; and classified according to function as to the degree of movement and extension each joints can provide. It is also grouped according to the anatomical significance while these anatomical groups are greatly involved in arthralgia.

The pain in the joint or arthralgia involves two or more body joints and usually arise as a result of infection, trauma to the tissues involved in the joints, inflammation and as secondary to an existing underlying condition. The inflammation in arthralgia can be classified as either inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Inflammatory arthralgia have pain in movement and at rest while in non-inflammatory, the pain is aggravated by movement although it eases when at rest.

Symptoms

Manifestation of athralgia or joint pain varies and depends on the cause by which the joint is suffering from pain whether inflammatory or non-inflammatory. Arthralgia is marked by joint pain with intensity that can go mild to severe while the pain can be described as sharp or dull, throbbing, burning and stabbing. Pain is the initial sign of arthralgia that can appear suddenly or may develop and worsen overtime depending on the etiology of the condition. The onset of joint pain can be classified as inflammatory and non-inflammatory while both of which have distinguishing symptoms to identify one from another and such signs and symptoms include the following:

Signs and symptoms of a non-inflammatory arthralgia

  • Morning stiffness of joint in the morning that results in limited movement often from pain and stiffness.
  • Pain perceived is aggravated and exacerbated with every movement of the affected joint.
  • Pain is often relieve when affected joint is put to rest.
  • Symptoms of fatigue and sudden weight loss which is usually arthralgia triggered by an existing underlying condition.

Signs and symptoms of inflammatory arthralgia

  • Onset of fever
  • Skin redness and warmth over the affected joint
  • Joint swelling
  • Stiffness after long period of immobility or rest of the affected joint.
  • Joint stiffness during the morning
  • Limited range of movement of the joint
  • Stabbing or throbbing pain over the joint
  • Burning sensation or itchiness or sometimes numbness of the affected joint.
  • Pain is unceasing with rest and exacerbated with every movement.

Types

Arthralgia is also categorized according to the number of joints affected as arthralgia can affect one or two more joints of the body. Such categorization includes the following:

Localized arthralgia involves only one joint and is inflammatory form of arthralgia. Inflammation is the result of invasion from microorganisms secondary to trauma and rarely dissemination from an area distal to the affected joint.

Generalized is characterized as diffuse pain that can affect multiple joint flittingly from dissemination. The pain usually radiates or changes its location regularly while it can affect multiple body joints concurrently.

Monoarticular refers to only one affected joint of the body.

Polyarticular refers to more than one affected joint of the body.

Oligoarticular is arthralgia of two to four more joints of the body.

Joint pain can also be classified according to the intervals of its episode such as:

Intermittent arthralgia has an observable pattern by which the pain occurs. This type of pain can be observed such as during the cold or rainy season and during the extreme use of body joint in certain strenuous activities that can overdrive the joint. The onset of this type of arthralgia is usually the result of a trauma to the joint including the normal wear and tear process of aging.

Constant arthralgia is an arthralgia in constant interval and which usually occur secondary to the existing underlying condition that contributes to the inflammation and swelling of the joints.

Causes

Arthralgia has various causes although inflammation of the joint or arthritis is the most common cause of arthralgia. Several factors are considered for the cause of arthralgia and these include the following:

  • Degenerative conditions is usually a non-inflammatory pain of joint affecting two or more body joints where the typical manifestation of inflammation is often missing except for pain. This cause of arthralgia is usually common in older people often as a result of normal wear and tear of the cartilage surrounding the body joint from overtime use or damage and injury to the bone.
  • Systemic infection results to arthralgia and is non-inflammatory although arthralgia is a symptom of a certain systemic infection and which affects multiple body joints. Arthralgia can arise from infections like bacterial, viral and fungal.
  • Autoimmune disorders can affect multiple joints of the body although it can affect a single joint and with inflammation as its primary manifestation.
  • Tumor growth in bone and cartilage can result to a non-inflammatory joint pain and often affects a single joint although more joints can get affected with metastases of tumor.
  • Metabolic disorders where materials can accumulate and deposit in the joint can result to joint pain and inflammation. Gout and pseudogout are among the metabolic disorders that can lead to crystal accumulations and depositions in the joints.
  • Bone diseases can bring in diffuse joint pain and such disease can include Paget’s disease and osteomyelitis to name a few.
  • Medications taken also contribute to an inflammatory or non-inflammatory arthralgia that can affect a single joint.

Treatment

Arthralgia is treated for the relief and reduction of symptoms while methods of treatment vary depending on the cause of joint pain. Long-term treatment is beneficial for arthralgia that resulted from an existing underlying condition.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs produce timely relief in pain associated with inflammation.
  • Heat application increases the blood flow and improves flexibility thereby helps in reducing the pain.
  • Physical therapy contributes in improving joint flexibility and mobility.
  • Surgery is required to those with joint pain resulting from severely damaged joints.
  • Coping mechanisms relieves the tension in the body through relaxation techniques.

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