Joint Pain

Arthralgia

What is joint pain?

Arthralgia is pain in the joints. Arthralgia is a symptom. The term is used as a "diagnosis" while tests are being obtained to permit a specific diagnosis, or after tests fail to show a disease, but the symptom of joint pain persists. Severe joint pain is a symptom of many different pathologies. Causes of joint pain include tendinitis or tenosynovitis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, gout, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, or infectious arthritis.

How is it diagnosed?

History: An individual may complain of pain in the joints; pain may be in one or multiple joints. Age and sex of individual need to be considered. The interviewer needs to elicit specific information about the pain, such as time of day it occurs, what makes it worse or better, and any other systemic symptoms such as fever or sore throat.

Physical exam should help to determine if the pain is central (spine, neck) or in the limbs. On examination, there may be joint tenderness, warmth, swelling, or redness. Movement of the joint may help to assess if it moves smoothly or if it catches. There may be a crackling sound. The individual may appear to be acutely or chronically ill.

Tests: Laboratory tests include erythrocyte sedimentation rate, rheumatoid factor, and hemoglobin or hematocrit can reveal a low grade anemia in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. Joint fluid may be analyzed for cells. X-rays of affected joints may show loss of joint space.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Pain medications (analgesics) and anti-inflammatory drugs may be used.

Medications

Motrin (Ibuprofen), Aleve (Naproxen), Ultram (Tramadol)

What might complicate it?

Complications would be associated with the disease or condition that caused the arthralgia.

Predicted outcome

Outcome depends on the underlying cause.

Alternatives

Trauma is a possible diagnosis.

Appropriate specialists

Rheumatologist, orthopedic specialist, and internist.

Last updated 6 August 2011


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