Every day our joints are exposed to enormous stress, whether at work, during sports or in everyday life. Most of the time we are not even really aware of this and we only appreciate the service of our joints when they no longer function smoothly or even start to hurt. Then, depending on the affected joint, natural movements such as climbing stairs, squatting down, typing something on the computer or the daily housework can become a challenge.
Early prevention is therefore essential. If you rest, you rust – in connection with the topic of joints, this popular saying can be found everywhere. And not without reason: regular moderate exercise is essential for healthy joint function. But not only that. We present some tips for the prevention and treatment of joint pain and explain everything important about the topic.
What is joint pain?
Joints are the mobile connections between two or more bones. They ensure that we can move our limbs (e.g. the fingers) flexibly. In order for them to function smoothly, the cartilage forms a kind of protective layer between the bones and prevents them from rubbing against each other. The synovial fluid “lubricates” the joints and ensures that the friction that occurs during movement is reduced.
If this interaction no longer functions smoothly, pain may occur in the joints or in their surroundings, which can manifest itself in various ways. This can be accompanied by redness, warming and swelling. In the worst case, the joints may hurt not only when moving but also when at rest.
Muscle and joint pain: How do they differ from each other?
Muscle pain often manifests itself in the form of sore muscles, muscle cramps or tension. They often occur in the back, shoulder or neck area. They are caused, for example, by overloading the body and muscles or a lack of certain minerals such as magnesium or calcium. Increased tension in the muscles caused by stress can also trigger pain.
Joint complaints, on the other hand, directly affect the joints, which then become painful during movement. This can be accompanied by swelling of the affected joints and possibly redness in this area. As a rule, the joints are less mobile due to the pain and swelling. Sometimes joint pain can also occur after “wrong” movement in the form of a stabbing pain.
What can be the cause of joint pain?
Pain in the joints can have various causes. Sometimes they are only caused temporarily by a temporary overload, for example if you have spent a lot of time kneeling during an activity. Sometimes painful joints can occur as a result of injuries, accidents or incorrect loading.
Sometimes, however, serious illnesses can also be hidden behind them. Some autoimmune diseases (e.g. Hashimoto) as well as rheumatic diseases can trigger painful joints. The immune system attacks and damages the body’s own tissue, for example in joints and ligaments.
Common reasons for joint pain are the following.
Joint wear and tear with arthrosis
In most cases, the cause of painful joints is age-related wear and tear of the joints or wear and tear caused by incorrect loading – arthrosis. In this case, the cartilage layer of the joints is damaged or even destroyed, causing the bones to rub against each other, which leads to degenerative changes in the bone. As a result, inflammation can occur, accompanied by symptoms such as swelling, redness, limited mobility and pain.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease1. With increasing age, the risk of contracting it increases because the body’s natural ageing processes promote degenerative joint wear. Arthrosis can also occur as a late consequence of an accident, ligament damage or joint malformation. In principle, any joint in the musculoskeletal system can suffer from arthrosis, and hands, knees and hips are often affected.
Joint inflammation with arthritis
Arthritis is an inflammatory process in the joint, which can have various causes. Bacterial infections (bacterial arthritis) can play a role, as can rheumatic processes.
In most cases, arthritis progresses chronically and leads to a gradual destruction of the joints. The symptoms are very similar to those of osteoarthritis: affected joints hurt, are restricted in their mobility, can swell and are often warm and reddened.
The most common form of inflammatory joint disease is rheumatoid arthritis. Over longer periods of time, the joints can become stiff and movement can be significantly restricted. A further joint inflammation from the rheumatoid form is Reiter’s disease.
Joint pain due to bursitis (inflammation of the bursa)
Irritation of the bursae located between bone and soft tissue can lead to bursitis. As a result, pain in the area of the joints can occur.
Bursa sacs are filled with tissue fluid and are located in the area of the joints as well as everywhere where skin, tendons or muscles lie directly on the bone. They thus form a kind of cushioning protective layer between hard and soft structures. Bursitis is often caused by overloading, in rare cases also by infections or injuries.
What other diseases can cause joint pain?
In addition to the causes already mentioned, there are also some diseases that can lead to painful joints. These include Lyme disease, in which the bacteria transmitted from ticks to humans cause bacterial joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis).
In addition, the chronic rheumatic inflammation Bechterew’s disease, which mainly affects the spine, but can also spread to the large joints.
Psoriasis can also be accompanied by inflammation-related joint pain. Doctors then speak of psoriasis-arthritis. Sometimes the joint pain precedes the skin changes. Inflammation-related joint pain can also occur during and after infectious diseases such as influenza, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis and chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
Another disease that can cause joint pain is gout. This leads to an increased concentration of uric acid in the blood. As a result, the excess uric acid is deposited in the form of crystals in the area of the joints, among other things, which leads to an inflammatory reaction of the body to these deposits.
In addition, fibromyalgia syndrome can also lead to painful joints throughout the body in addition to other complaints.
joint pain during pregnancy
During pregnancy, painful joints can occur due to hormonal factors. As the weight load increases during the second half of the pregnancy, there is often pain in the knees and the vertebral joints in the back because the body is not used to the additional load. Water retention in the foot and wrist joints can also cause joint pain.
Joint pain during the menopause
With the onset of the menopause, hormonal joint pain can occur due to the estrogen deficiency2. The decreasing production of female sex hormones has a negative effect on joint health and pain perception in many ways.
If the symptoms are severe, hormone replacement therapy can be considered for treatment. However, other possible causes should be ruled out by a doctor beforehand, as joint complaints occur more frequently with increasing age and are not necessarily due to the menopause.
Where can joint pain occur in the body?
In principle, joint pain can occur in all joints in the body. Depending on the cause – for example certain diseases or signs of wear and tear – the complaints can occur at individual joints in the body or at several.
Joint pain in the hand and finger
Our hands each consist of 27 different bones and more than 30 joints. Each finger alone has several limbs that are in constant motion. Pain and restricted movement quickly become a problem. This is often caused by inflammatory processes such as rheumatism or gout. Over time, the end joints of the fingers become thickened and sometimes the joints become deformed.
Joint pain in the knee
Our knee joints are so-called rotating hinge joints, which are composed of two individual joints. They connect the thigh bone, the kneecap and the shin bone with each other and form a very complex interplay. The knee has to withstand enormous pressure and is loaded with about three times our body weight with every step.
It is quite remarkable and hardly surprising that the knee joint is therefore often subject to wear and tear and degenerative changes. Doctors also refer to the wear and tear of the knee as gonarthrosis.
Joint pain in the shoulder
The shoulder is the joint of our body with the greatest range of motion and therefore somewhat more susceptible to injuries than other joints. A frequent cause of acute pain in the shoulder is the dislocation of the shoulder joint. The joint’s high degree of mobility can lead to the head of humerus jumping out of the socket when it is overloaded.
Chronic shoulder pain, on the other hand, develops over weeks or months and is based on wear and tear or inflammatory changes. An inflammation of the bursa in the shoulder can also cause pain in the joint area. An inflammation of the shoulder joint capsule can lead to a frozen shoulder.
However, pain in the shoulder area can be caused by a number of other triggers. These are often areas close to the shoulder such as the ligaments, tendons or muscles of the shoulder girdle. Caution in the case of acute pain in the left shoulder and chest area could also be the cause of a heart attack.
Joint pain in the elbow
The elbow connects the two forearm bones with the bone of the upper arm and allows a stable bending movement. Due to the constant movement of the joint in everyday life and the associated constant production of synovial fluid, it is less susceptible to complaints caused by pure wear and tear. Instead, it is more susceptible to injuries and accidents.
Pain in the elbow joint can be caused mainly by general inflammation, rheumatic diseases or inflammation of the bursae.
Can joint pain also affect the whole body?
Joint pain can also occur all over the body. In this case, fibromyalgia may be the cause or sometimes general infectious diseases (e.g. flu). Other typical symptoms of fibromyalgia include exhaustion, sleep disorders, depression, headaches and pain all over the body.
Which joints are particularly frequently affected by joint pain?
The knees, hips and finger joints are most frequently affected by joint pain, as they are subject to the greatest stress.
How does joint pain manifest itself?
Joint pain can manifest itself in different ways depending on the cause. There are also differences in the type of pain, the frequency and the distribution pattern of the pain.
Differentiation according to the onset of joint pain
Joint pain can occur acutely and suddenly. Immediately as a result of an injury or an unfavourable movement or it sets in within hours. Subacute joint pain does not occur immediately, but only after some time has passed. They become noticeable within a few days.
Chronic joint pain, on the other hand, develops over several weeks or months and persists. Depending on the underlying cause, patients have to accept that the pain is permanent and can only provide relief.
Differentiation according to the regularity of joint pain
In addition, one differentiates according to the rhythm of the pain that occurs. On the one hand, a distinction is made between constant joint pain that continues unchanged without any change in intensity.
On the other hand, a distinction is made between intermittent joint pain that occurs at intervals that become weaker and stronger. A distinction is also made between morning joint pain, often referred to as “morning stiffness”, which occurs with greater intensity after getting up and then improves with increasing movement of the joint.
In the case of the so-called start-up pain, the pain is more intense as soon as the joint is moved and then also improves with increasing movement. Nocturnal joint pain occurs at rest when the joint is not moved, often at night during sleep. In this context it is also called resting pain.
Differentiation according to affected body region
Joint pain is also distinguished according to its distribution pattern, i.e. according to the regions of the body in which it occurs. With certain diseases, joint pain can occur anywhere on the entire body.
Joint pain can also occur only in the so-called small joints such as the hands, fingers and feet. Or in the large joints such as knees, hips, shoulders and elbows.
Differentiation according to the number of joints affected
Joint pain that affects only one joint is called monoarticular joint pain. If the pain extends to two to four joints, it is called oligoarticular joint pain. If more than four joints are affected, it is called polyarticular joint pain.
How can joint pain be prevented?
Prevention is better than aftercare, also in terms of joints. Being able to move without pain and with pleasure until old age considerably increases the quality of life and well-being. Wear and tear should therefore be counteracted as early as possible before long-term damage can occur.
If pain is not treated early, it can quickly become chronic. That is why we have here the most important tips for you to prevent joint pain.
Regular exercise is essential
If there is pain in the musculoskeletal system, people often prefer not to move at all. The joints feel stiff and everything hurts. But even if you already suffer from joint pain, you should not rest completely. On the contrary, regular and moderate exercise supports the joints.
The movement ensures that the joints are well lubricated and the blood circulation is stimulated. This in turn ensures that joints and muscles are supplied with sufficient amounts of important nutrients. In addition, muscles and ligaments are trained, allowing the supporting muscles to perform their function better: namely, to support the joints and keep all structures (such as intervertebral discs or patella) in place.
Gentle, rhythmic movements are best suited to promote joint function. Sports such as swimming, cycling, Nordic walking, strength training that is easy on the joints or extensive walks and easy hikes are ideal for even moderate strain on the musculoskeletal system.
Caution, in the case of degenerative joint diseases or severe pain, high pressure loads and rapid changes in speed are taboo. Also make sure not to exceed your own load limit.
Regular exercise can already be integrated into everyday life with small things. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, the bicycle instead of the car for short distances or walk more often.
A reduction of overweight is often advisable
Being overweight puts a strain on the joints and the musculoskeletal system. The more weight our body has to carry, the higher the load on the joints, especially the lower half of the body such as knee, hip and ankle joints.
An important point in the prevention of joint pain is therefore the regulation of body weight. This is the only way to reduce the permanent, additional stress on the joints. Various epidemiological studies have established a connection between the development of arthrosis and overweight34. Overweight is even considered one of the main risk factors for osteoarthritis of the knee joints5.
In addition, a weight reduction of more than 10 percent can provide lasting relief from pain6.
Have defective positions and sports injuries treated early on
Incorrect loading of the body due to incorrect posture or poor posture can have an unfavourable effect on the joints due to the constant uneven load. You should therefore act early by correcting defective positions orthopedically or by exercising appropriate physical exercises (e.g. yoga) or movement training to correct them.
Try to prevent incorrect loading by maintaining an upright posture and taking care when lifting or carrying heavy objects. For example, always lift heavy objects with a straight back and without turning your knees or back.
Try to avoid one-sided activities, change sides occasionally or perform specific counter-movements to relieve the strain. Protect your knees during kneeling activities with a soft pad or special cushions.
Injuries during sports, at work or during everyday activities are better treated early to prevent them becoming chronic and causing long-term damage to the musculoskeletal system. Protect yourself from injuries during sports and make sure that you have enough time to warm up. Overloading during sports should also be avoided.
Reduce your alcohol and nicotine consumption
Nicotine and alcohol not only have a harmful effect on our body in principle, but also have a very special effect on our joints. Smoking is one of the possible risk factors for osteoarthritis. Alcohol increases the concentration of uric acid in the blood, as a result of which the excess uric acid can be deposited in the form of crystals in the area of the joints. These deposits in turn can lead to gout, an inflammatory reaction to the deposits.
Drink enough water
The protective cartilage layer surrounds our bones and ensures that they do not rub against each other in the joints. It consists of 80 % water. A sufficient supply of moisture to the cartilage and also to the intervertebral discs is important to keep them elastic and flexible. The water ensures the elasticity and resilience of the cartilage, the intervertebral discs and the supporting connective tissue.
Avoid wetness, cold and draught
Particularly in patients with rheumatism or arthrosis, the symptoms often worsen in wet and cold conditions. This is probably due to the reduced blood circulation in cold weather. In addition, the synovial fluid becomes more viscous in cold weather, which leads to increased friction in the joints. Draft can also lead to muscular tension and thus aggravate existing joint complaints.
It can therefore be particularly unpleasant in autumn and winter in the damp cold. In these weather conditions, always keep your joints warm and make sure that the affected joints are not exposed to draughts. It also helps to stimulate the blood circulation and to move the joints moderately despite the pain.
How can joint pain be treated?
The classic therapy for joint pain is based on medication, sometimes with the help of strong painkillers and cortisone as an anti-inflammatory agent. For short-term use, this may be an effective treatment option, but long-term use can lead to a variety of side effects and negative effects on the body.
Many preparations relieve the pain, but do not fight the cause of the complaints. As soon as the medication is discontinued, the pain therefore quickly returns. Therefore, it makes more sense to tackle the problem directly at its root and provide long-term relief.
Alternative treatment options are numerous and can be used supportively and, depending on the severity and cause of the pain, also as the sole therapy.
Ensure good blood circulation in the affected regions
A good blood circulation in the joints is important for a sufficient supply of nutrients. As already mentioned, the blood circulation can be stimulated by sport and exercise. As a matter of principle, one should avoid maintaining a position for a long time (e.g. standing or sitting for a long time).
Massage treatments can also stimulate the blood circulation and have a relaxing effect. Suitable for this are special massage oils with essential oils, which additionally stimulate the blood circulation, for example with
Rosemary Eucalyptus Peppermint Arnica Incense Juniper
Many ointments for treating joint pain also contain combinations of valuable essential oils or medicinal herbs.
In addition, daily cold-warm showers of the affected joints can also help to stimulate the blood circulation.
The right diet for joint pain
For joint pain it is important to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Especially foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the joints. They contain anti-inflammatory substances that can help to alleviate inflammatory processes in the body. These include:
high-quality vegetable oils such as linseed, hemp, walnut and soybean oil Nuts, seeds and kernels fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardine and mackerel
The basis of a healthy diet for the treatment of joint pain is plant-based food, low-fat dairy products, high-quality fats and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. In this way, the body is naturally supplied with important nutrients such as vitamins and trace elements.
Some foods contain substances that can promote inflammation. Many animal fats and sugars promote the increased formation of inflammatory messengers. These include, for example, the so-called arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that occurs in high-fat foods of animal origin.
In addition, put more basic foods on your diet. Alkaline foods that provide minerals and trace elements such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, iron or potassium (e.g. many types of fruit and vegetables) help prevent the body from becoming overly acidic. In the case of overacidification, the acid-base balance of the organism is no longer in equilibrium, which affects the metabolism and can lead to the deposition of harmful metabolic products in the body. This in turn can promote the development of inflammation.
A diet rich in enzymes also supports the reduction of inflammatory processes in the body. Enzymes are vital natural substances that control and accelerate chemical processes in the body. They are also known as bio-catalysts. In this way they can positively influence the course of inflammations, reduce swelling and ease pain.
Is a heat treatment for joint pain useful?
A heat treatment can be useful for joint pain, but it is not always. Heat should only be used if the joint is not inflamed and not swollen. If there is acute inflammation in the joint, heat should never be used. This could stimulate the inflammatory processes and worsen the pain. Here, cold treatment can provide relief.
In chronic joint pain, outside of acute inflammatory attacks, heat treatment can provide relief. The heat makes the joints more flexible, the surrounding muscles can loosen, the blood circulation is stimulated and the pain is reduced.
Heat treatments can be carried out independently at home, for example with wraps and compresses, a hot roll, a hot water bottle, a heat plaster or red light. It is recommended to apply heat before carrying out an exercise therapy in order to improve the mobility of the joint. The heat should be applied for at least 15 minutes to achieve a deep effect. The skin should always be protected from extreme heat so that no burns can occur.
Can relaxation techniques help with joint pain?
The perception of pain is always subjective and sometimes depends on how tense you are and how much you focus on the pain. Inner balance and relaxation can help to significantly reduce the perception of pain.
This may sound a bit paradoxical at first, because how can you relax when you are in pain? But especially in chronic pain, relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson, breathing exercises, targeted yoga exercises or autogenic training are extremely effective. Of course, it takes time and patience as well as regular use to achieve the hoped-for effect. However, it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try.
Can homeopathic remedies be used for joint pain?
Homeopathic remedies are a gentle alternative for treating joint pain. They can be used to support conventional medical therapy. The choice of the appropriate homeopathic remedy should be made by a doctor or therapist and is based on the individual symptoms.
The power of nature for the whole family: Arnica 1+1 DHU
Arnica 1+1 from DHU combines the proven active ingredients of the medicinal plant Arnica montana in a combination of globules and ointment. Ideal for complementary use from inside and outside – the ointment for external application and the globules for internal use. The strong duo has decongestant and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for acute joint pain.
Arnica is one of the most varied and most frequently used medicinal herbs. It has a positive effect on muscles and joints, stimulates the blood circulation and can help to improve rheumatic complaints.
Arnica is considered poisonous and may therefore only be used internally as a homeopathic remedy. The external application of the ointment should not be used on open wounds.
Registered homeopathic medicine, therefore without indication of a therapeutic indication.
For rheumatic pain: Rhus tox. D6 from DHU
Rhus toxicodendron D6 from DHU is a well-tolerated and naturally effective drug for use in the treatment of rheumatic pain of the entire musculoskeletal system. It acts in a natural way against pain in joints, back and muscles.
Rhus toxicodendron helps to relieve pain in movement, has a gentle effect and does not burden the organism. This means that it can be used in the long term for chronic complaints after consultation with the treating doctor. It can be used both as the sole medication and as a supplement to conventional medical therapy. Interactions with other drugs are not known.
The areas of application correspond to the homeopathic drug picture. These include rheumatic pain in bones, periosteum and joints as well as tendons and muscles7. The remedy has proved to be particularly effective for joint pain (e.g. arthrosis) and pain after overexertion, which is felt most strongly at the start of movement (“starting pain”).
The active ingredient is extracted from the fresh, young shoots of the Rhus-toxicodendron bush. The plant is one of the best known remedies in homeopathy and has proven its worth many times over in its more than 22-year history of use for pain of the locomotor system.
Rhus toxicodendron is an approved homeopathic remedy and is available without prescription in pharmacies.
For external use for rheumatic joint pain: Rhus comp. gel from DHU
In addition, there is the DHU Rhus comp. gel for rheumatic joint pain for external use, which can be applied specifically to the point of pain. The combination of the active ingredients from Rhus toxicodendron, Ledum and Symphytum helps in a natural way with complaints in small and large joints8.
Rhus toxicodendron has proven its worth in naturopathy, especially for pain of the musculoskeletal system. Ledum (swamp porst) is considered an important homeopathic agent in pain treatment and is used especially for muscle and joint rheumatism.
Symphytum (common comfrey) is valued in homeopathy as a bone remedy and is also used for painful complaints of the joints.
When should one consult a doctor for joint pain?
If the joint pain does not subside or if accompanying symptoms such as swelling, redness or even fever occur, you should consult a doctor. The same applies to severe limitations in mobility.
If the pain has not improved after two to three weeks, it is advisable to consult a doctor to find out whether the disease is degenerative (e.g. arthrosis) or inflammatory rheumatic.