What Causes Body and Joint Pain?
We all experience body and joint aches and pains from time to time. However, for some, this can cause ongoing discomfort and can impact daily tasks and your sense of well-being.
Pain is a way of letting you know that there may be something wrong with your body. There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing pain such as a recent injury, exercise or viruses which can trigger acute, temporary pain. Depending on the cause, this acute pain and ongoing wear and tear may lead to chronic pain, especially when there is an underlying medical condition.
Commonly, long-term pain consists of and can be aggravated by accompanying symptoms like weakness, fatigue, stress, insomnia and sciatica. Sciatica is nerve pain that starts in the lower back and travels down the leg. This is caused by irritation and/or compression of the sciatic nerve. Arthritis and multiple sclerosis are common autoimmune diseases, where there is inflammation of the muscle tissues around the joints and nerve cells.
Other various causes of pain include:
- Infections, triggering a cascade of white blood cells causing inflammation of the muscles and then healing
- Dehydration and low electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium which affect muscle health and endurance
- Some medications which deplete muscle enzymes, COQ10 that makes energy and minimises cramps
- Fibromyalgia, where general muscles all over the body are stiff and painful due to a problem with the central nervous system’s pain messaging
- Fluid retention from various underlying conditions (e.g. heart failure, thyroid problems, kidney diseases, etc.)
If you believe any of the above may be causing your pain, it is recommended that you visit your Pharmacist or GP.
Common Types of Pain and Their Symptoms
Back pain can vary from feeling like an ache, tension or stiffness in the back to shooting or stabbing pain that travels down your leg. This potentially debilitating pain can be effectively managed using a holistic approach with your Pharmacist, GP or other trusted health professionals.
Inflammation occurs in the muscles around the joints, causing pain and can limit mobility. For example, in Osteoarthritis, there is a painful feeling of "bone grating on bone".
An injured knee may swell up due to inflammation of the muscles around the knee, resulting in pain, rigidity and can appear, "blown up" in size. Excessive and/or strenuous activity using your knees and legs could cause knee pain.
Hip pain can be caused by instant knocks, excess pressure or Osteoarthritis-affected hips which can contribute to stress and fatigue as it takes a toll on the body.
Muscular pain may involve stiffness, soreness, cramps and inflammation. When the pain lingers, you may experience other symptoms, such as lethargy, weakness, insomnia and stress.
How to Effectively Treat Pain
The good news is there are a number of practical remedies, supplements and medications that can assist with body or joint aches and pains. Treatment is dependant on the severity and type of pain. It is important to also seek professional advice from your Pharmacist, GP or specialist.
Allowing the body to naturally repair requires time and less activity, which also prevents further aggravation to the pain.
Immobility for long periods may contribute to rigidity, scar tissue and minimal healing. Try doing gentle movements and exercises. This is particularly important in managing back pain.
Examples of supplements and medication that may help manage pain include:
- Magnesium* relaxes muscles, taking the edge off pain and reduces stress
- Turmeric* and especially its most active compound curcumin, is beneficial in reducing inflammation in arthritis
- Glucosamine* helps to cushion joints and relieve the pain of "bone rubbing on bone" that occurs in Osteoarthritis
- Omega 3* acids from fatty fish or fish oil capsules have anti-inﬂammatory properties
- Ginger* is not only great in food, but has anti-inﬂammatory properties
- Paracetamol* may offer significant pain reduction, as it blocks pain
- Anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin may assist in short term relief of muscular pain
- Medicated creams may assist pain relief in the specific area that it's applied as well as promoting blood circulation to aid healing.
Tablets such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory medicines may be taken to temporarily alleviate pain. If you are experiencing persistent or chronic pain, please discuss with your Pharmacist or GP about an appropriate treatment regime to begin the road to recovery.
Apply a Heat Pack, such as a wheat bag or hot water bottle (with warm, not boiling water) to relax aching muscles and relieve stiffness. Heat therapy should be warm, not overly hot. The heat helps to dilate the blood vessels, promote blood flow and improve circulation. This in turn helps to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles while removing the build-up of lactic acid. This is a key to helping your muscles heal.
Extra weight can put additional pressure on sore joints, causing more pain. Talk to your Pharmacist, GP or Weight Loss Consultant if you need assistance achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
There are a range of aids available to help support your mobility at home and outdoors. Orthotics such as support devices, braces and even shoe inserts can help to align, correct and improve mobility and reduce stress on troubled areas.
Other general measures that are important in pain management include:
- Drinking lots of fluids and staying hydrated to ease aches. Drinking electrolyte replacements helps to ensure muscles get the nutrients they need which assists muscle repair as well as reducing tiredness
- Warm baths to relax muscles and release body tension. Consider adding bath salts such as Magnesium Bath Flakes or Epsom salts to help reduce inflammation. A few drops of essential oils such as lavender can also help with relaxation and reducing stress.
- Maintaining a comfortable room temperature to reduce fevers and muscle stiffness
When You Should See a Doctor About Body or Joint Pain?
As a guide, consult with your doctor if any pain persists for more than 2 weeks, especially if the cause is unknown. However, it is crucial to refer to a GP if you experience any of the following signs with the pain or other unexplained symptoms:
- Fever for at least 48 hours, especially with vomiting
- Skin reactions like a rash
- Severe redness or swelling
- Hard to drink, eat or even swallow, or breathe
- Neck becomes stiff
- Vision is affected or the eyes are sensitive to light
- Tingling, weakness or unable to move any area of body
- Dizziness, fainting or falls
- Severe fluid retention or exhaustion
- A seizure or fit
For any medication-related pain, please see your Pharmacist or GP.
How Your Pharmacist Can Help With Pain Management
Our friendly pharmacists can review the nature of the pain, severity and any possible underlying factors before suggesting appropriate treatments. For ongoing chronic pain, we can do a pain MedsCheck to provide an in-depth written review and offer resolutions which may be further discussed with your doctor. We can provide recommendations relating to medication, complementary products and lifestyle measures to help aid pain relief and recovery. So feel free to come in to see our caring Pharmacists to help with managing your pain so that you can live a better lifestyle.
To seek further information to elaborate on this general advice, refer to your Pharmacist or GP.
*CAUTION: Not all supplements, natural remedies and medications work well together. Pregnant mothers, breastfeeding mothers and infants should exercise caution before changing medication. Always read the label and use only as directed.
Always check with your Pharmacist that vitamins and supplements don’t interact with any other medicines that you are taking. Never take more than the recommended dose of vitamins per day. If symptoms see your trusted healthcare professional.