What Is Joint Pain And Swelling
Swollen joints happen when there is fluid in the tissues around the joints. It can be very uncomfortable and can make it difficult to move the affected joints. In some cases, swelling may cause affected joints to increase in size or appear to be an odd shape.
Joint pain and swelling can affect more than one joint at a time. The most common joints to be affected by pain and swelling are elbows, wrists, shoulders, the base of the spine, knuckles, hips, knees or ankles.
There are two types of joint pain and swelling: acute and chronic. Acute joint pain and swelling comes on quickly and lasts a short time, for example, if you have an injury. Chronic joint pain and swelling comes on slowly and cause long-term problems. This is more likely to be caused by an underlying condition such as a type of arthritis.
Why Do I Have Pain In My Foot Or Ankle
Most people experience pain in and around their feet or ankles at some point in their lives.
Its one of the most complex, hard-working regions of your body. It has 26 bones and 33 small joints, all held together by a network of soft tissue made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels.
Most cases of foot or ankle pain are short term and are caused by soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or strains.
These should gradually heal with the help of simple self-care measures. Though some could take a few months to fully recover, you probably wont need to seek treatment from a healthcare professional.
However, some pain can have no obvious cause or may not improve significantly with self-care.
Pain that seems to be getting worse, does not improve, or lasts longer than a few months could be due to structural changes in the foot or ankle, or an underlying condition.
There can be several explanations for long-term pain in and around the feet or ankles, such as:
- badly fitting footwear
An Older Injury Is Stirring Up Problems Again
Having an injury earlier in your lifewhether it was treated or untreatedcan increase your risk of having joint pain later, Dr. Gasbarro says.
There are a few different ways this can happen, but problems like a ligament tear, tendon issues, or a bone fracture can lead to inflammation over time, Dr. Gerhardt says. Even though a doctor can help you manage symptoms, they cant go back in time and erase the injury. So, if you had a ligament tear in your knee in your 20s, for example, it sets you up for arthritis 10, 20, or 30 years later, he says.
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Who Is More Likely To Experience Joint Pain
Joint pain tends to affects those who:
- Have had previous injuries to a joint
- Repeatedly use and/or overuse a muscle
- Have arthritis or other chronic medical conditions
- Suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or stress
- Are overweight
- Suffer from poor health
Age is also a factor in stiff and painful joints. After years of use, and wear and tear on joints, problems may arise in middle-aged or older adults.
Can Foot Problems Cause Knee Pain
Most people think that their knee hurting is the result of knee injuries or the diseases stated above. But your foot might also be the reason why they hurt. Have you noticed your foot and ankle feeling painful lately? Then the pain will radiate to your leg and eventually make its way up?
This may be because you have a foot or ankle condition that is affecting your leg and knee. A patient may not think that foot pain and knee pain are related, but it does happen sometimes.
Lets take a look at some of the possible causes of your foot pain which can radiate all the way to your knee and kneecap.
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A Meniscus Or Ligament Tear
This is common in people playing sports that involve sudden changes of direction. Soccer, basketball, and tennis are a few good examples.
The meniscus is a shock-absorber disc inside the knee joint. It also protects your bones so they dont rub together.
Conversely, a ligament is a strong, thick band that helps stabilize the joints.
If youve torn any of them during a sports activity or your daily life, you might feel:
- A cracking or popping that wasnt there before.
- A loud pop at the moment of injury.
- Pain, swelling, difficulty walking.
Other Causes Of Foot Pain
Pain in the foot can be a consequence of damage, pressure or rubbing over a long period of time.
Wearing badly fitting shoes, pregnancy, injury, or putting too much strain through specific parts of your foot can all cause changes in the shape of your feet. Often, these changes are painful and can affect your ability to do things.
Sometimes, its our choice of shoes that has the biggest impact on the structure of our feet and the problems we develop, such as:
Corns are raised areas of hard, knobbly skin which develop where calluses have been left untreated. They often cause a burning sensation. A corn is a permanent change to your foot which will need care and management to stop it becoming too painful. You can manage corns by gently filing or pumicing them each week. You should never cut the skin with a blade.
Corns and calluses will usually grow back within four to six weeks unless you reduce the pressure on the area. Wearing softer, roomier footwear and placing a cushioned pad over the corn or callus can help.
A neuroma causes sudden shooting, stabbing, or burning pain. Most commonly it affects the third and fourth toes and the ball of your foot. It can feel like there is a small stone under your foot and your toes may become numb or tingly. It is caused by a damaged or irritated nerve and often becomes more painful over time. It is also known as Mortons neuroma and can be made worse by:
Clawed, mallet, retracted and hammer toes
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Can A Knee Injury Cause Foot Pain
We all know that foot injury can cause knee pain. If you have ever had to limp for an extended period of time, then you know just how sore your knee can get.
What many people dont realize is that the effects go both ways. All joints are connected via the tendons and muscles of our bodies.
Often a knee injury that causes the foot to be placed awkwardly can cause considerable pain. This pain can manifest in either or both feet. Due to the effect on the lower leg, such injuries can also be a cause of ankle pain.
Other conditions can affect your ankle and knee pain as well. The presence of Osteo-arthritis in your knee can also cause pain.
A weakening of the knee joint due to OA has also been found to cause foot pain. If you are an elderly person who is experiencing unusual pain in your knee that radiates all the way to your foot, you should seek medical help.
Treating one problem may relieve your other symptoms.
Problems Linked To Low And High Arches
Arches that are higher or lower than average can increase your risk of developing other problems, such as:
- valgus heel
- corns and calluses.
The self-care tips can help ease pain in your arches.
Changing your footwear to a well-made running trainer that you feel supports the shape of your arch may prevent further painful changes to the structure of your arches.
Insoles and arch supports can help but its best to visit a foot specialist, such as a podiatrist, to get ones designed specifically for your foot shape.
If youre buying new footwear its best to take any adaptations, such as insoles, padding, or arch supports with you, as you may need a larger shoe size to fit them in comfortably.
Losing weight, if you need to, can reduce the strain on your arches and may prevent further long-term changes.
You may find it difficult to do exercises that put a lot of pressure through your feet. Swimming is a good way to improve and maintain your fitness because the water supports your body weight.
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What Symptoms Are Related To Joint Pain And Swelling
The symptoms of joint pain and swelling can vary from person to person, and depend on which joints are affected. The pain and swelling is often accompanied by stiffness, aches and a feeling of heat or warmth.
In some cases, it can lead to problems moving around, completing daily activities , and for some people, working.
Joint pain and swelling may be better or worse at different times of the day. For example, you may find that your joint pain and swelling is worst first thing in the morning. Pain and swelling in the joints can also lead to tiredness and fatigue.
How Is Joint Pain Treated
Although there may not be a cure for the pain, it can be managed to bring the patient relief. Sometimes the pain may go away by taking over-the-counter medication, or by performing simple daily exercises. Other times, the pain may be signaling problems that can only be corrected with prescription medication or surgery.
If those medications or treatments do not ease the pain, the doctor may prescribe:
- Supportive aids, such as a brace, cane, or orthotic device in the shoe, can help support the joint to allow ease of movement. The doctor, physical or occupational therapist, or social worker will be able to assist with the right option available.
- Physical or Occupational Therapy, along with a balanced fitness program, may gradually help ease pain and improve flexibility.
- Antidepressants may be prescribed to help improve sleep for a patient suffering from joint pain.
- Steroids, often given by injection into the joint, provide short-term relief of pain and swelling.
- Painkilling drugs that help ease pain.
Please note that medicine, even those available over the counter, affects people differently. What helps one person may not work for another. Be sure to follow the doctors directions carefully when taking any medicine, and tell him or her if you have any side effects.
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When Should I See A Doctor
If pain is interfering with normal daily life activities, it is time to talk to a doctor about the problem. It is important to diagnose the cause of the pain quickly and begin treatment to relieve pain and maintain healthy, functioning joints.
You should see a doctor if:
- Pain is accompanied by a fever
- There is unexplained weight loss
- Pain is preventing you from walking normally
During the appointment, the doctor will ask many questions to figure out what may be the cause of the pain. The patient should be ready to answer questions about previous injuries to the joint, when the joint pain began, a family history of joint pain, and the type of pain experienced.
An examination of the affected joint will follow to see if there is pain or limited motion. The doctor will also look for signs of injury to the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
If necessary, the doctor may also order X-rays or blood tests. X-rays can show if there is joint deterioration, fluid in the joint, bone spurs, or other issues that may be contributing to the pain. Blood tests will help confirm a diagnosis or rule out other diseases that may be causing the pain.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/28/2018.
How Is Knee Pain Treated
Knee pain treatment for overuse conditions generally responds well to conservative treatment if treated early. In fact, a research article was published in late June 2017 concluding:The addition of foot targeted exercises and foot orthoses for 12 weeks was more effective than knee targeted exercises alone in individuals with patellofemoral pain.Heres the link to the study:
If knee pain is disregarded, symptoms and treatment can last for several months and may lead to the need for possible surgery. Conservative treatment often involves:
Training or activity modification.
Your training or activity schedule will be discussed and modified so that a successful and effective treatment can be administered.
R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
As with any acute injury the RICE principle is paramount. It is necessary in the early stages of treatment to help fight the inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be suggested.
These allow the foot, leg and knee to function in a position which reduces the damaging forces placed on the knee and its surrounding structures. Forces are redistributed throughout the leg and stability is improved.
Appropriate strengthening and stretching of muscles around the knee may be advised by your Podiatrist.
Your podiatrists may suggest taping, bracing or further assistance from a physiotherapist.
Footwear Assessment and Advice
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Osteoarthritis Of The Knee
Arthritis is a group of conditions that involve inflammation in your joints. Osteoarthritis is the result of gradual wear and tear of the cartilage in the joint. Knee arthritis is a major cause of disability. The main symptoms are:
Some people with osteoarthritis of the knee experience increased sensitivity to cold. A 2017 study notes that when compared with the control group, these patients also had:
- lower pressure pain threshold in the knee
- increased pain
- greater functional impairment
- more features of neuropathic pain
These symptoms may point to increased central sensitization of the knee. Women are more likely than men to report that their knees are affected by cold weather.
How Do Knee Overuse Injuries Occur
Various factors can cause overuse injuries to the legs, including poorly fitted footwear, inappropriate training programs and inadequate training surfaces .
Another major cause of knee pain, which can often be overlooked, is abnormal alignment of the foot and lower leg.
Excessively Pronated Feet commonly known as flat feet, this can lead to excessive internal rotation of the lower leg at the same time that the upper leg is rotating in the opposite direction with forces produced during walking or running. The knee is the area that therefore must absorb these twisting forces, and thus injuries due to excessive strain or force can be the end result. Excessively pronated feet can result in a knock-kneed position, which can contribute to various muscles exerting their forces in abnormal directions.
Abnormally High-Ached Feet high arched-supinated feet, or feet which roll out excessively, do not allow normal knee flexion during walking. This foot type is often accompanied with a forefoot valgus which can also alter mechanics and forces on the ankle and the knee joint. Neutralising these abnormal foot and leg mechanics can help to reduce damaging forces on the knee joint.
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Hip Knee Ankle Foot Pain
Hip Pain and Causes
Hip pain is very common among all ages and can cause mild to severe discomfort when performing daily activities such as standing, walking, squatting, bending, and climbing stairs. Hip pain can be described as dull, achy, sharp, shooting, or tingling. Muscle strains, tendinitis, or bursitis can occur outside the hip joint and femoral acetabular impingement , labral tears or osteoarthritis can occur inside the hip joint. The hip joint, also referred to as the femoral acetabular joint, is extremely important because it helps connect the upper body to the lower extremities. It is responsible for dissipating loads from the upper body to the lower body, while providing stability, trunk control, and balance. While the hips are designed to support our bodyweight, every hip is different in terms of alignment and orientation. As movement experts, a physical therapist not only treats conditions such as strains, tendinitis, bursitis, and osteoarthritis, but also assesses each patients biomechanics to treat underlying impairments that can cause hip pain.
Common causes of hip pain include:
How can Physical Therapy help?
Knee Pain and Causes
Common knee injuries include:
How can Physical Therapy help?
Foot/Ankle Pain and Causes
How can Physical Therapy help?
Surgery For Arthritis In The Ankle
Your doctor may recommend surgery for your ankle arthritis if your pain causes disability and isnt relieved with nonsurgical treatment. Your doctor may recommend more than one type of surgery. Ankle surgery is complicated as it most commonly involves a fusion of the rearfoot or ankle joint or both, says Dr. Archer. If there is significant spurring of the ankle joint, the spurs can be resected via ankle arthroscopy first before fusion is attempted to try and restore ankle motion. However, all non-surgical measures should be attempted before surgery is planned.
Whats right for you depends on the extent of your arthritis in the ankle. Here are some options.
Ankle arthroscopic repair: Ankle arthroscopy is useful to clean up loose joint bodies, or small pieces of bone spurs in the joint that have broken off over time, says Dr. Archer. It can lead to less pain and improved range of motion, says Dr. Bilal. Since the surgery can be done laparoscopically, your surgeon will make a few small incisions.
Ankle arthroscopic repair is helpful in the early stages of arthritis in the ankle and for those with limited ankle arthritis. Its often ineffective in advanced ankle arthritis, says Dr. Bilal. Thats because when a significant amount of cartilage has worn away, the procedure wont help the joint.
Dr. Archer says that you shouldnt expect to walk as you once did. But if the pain is bad enough, you may welcome the chance to walk slightly differently without pain.
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When To See A Doctor About Foot Leg And Ankle Swelling
While swelling in the lower extremities usually isnt cause for concern, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. Here are some general guidelines that can help you identify when swelling warrants a trip to the doctor or to the emergency room.
You should schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible if:
- you have heart or kidney disease and are experiencing swelling
- you have liver disease and are experiencing swelling in your legs
- the swollen areas are red and feel warm to the touch
- your body temperature is higher than normal
- youre pregnant and are experiencing sudden or severe swelling
- youve tried home remedies, but they havent been successful
- your swelling is getting worse
You should go to the hospital immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms along with foot, leg, and ankle swelling:
- pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest area
During your appointment, your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms. Be prepared to explain:
- where youre noticing the swelling
- the times of day when the swelling tends to be worse
- any other symptoms you may be experiencing
- any factors that appear to make the swelling better or worse
To help diagnose the cause of the swelling, your doctor may order one or more of the following tests:
Swelling of the foot, leg, and ankle cant always be prevented. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent it. Some good strategies include: