Joint Pain is Not Always Arthritis

Over 50 million Americans have been doctor-diagnosed with some form of arthritis.  Most of these cases have chronic joint pain associated with them, which is the typical reason for the doctor visit.  There is a correlation between arthritis and chronic joint pain, but not all chronic joint pain is arthritis.  Yet, the general public has been led to believe that arthritis is the primary reason for joint pain.  Although sometimes true, not all joint pain should be equated to arthritis.  In fact, a significant portion of joint related pain is not due to the joint at all.

Joint movement occurs because of muscle contraction.  For instance, quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh extend the knee, while hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh flex the knee.  When the quadriceps muscles are activated, the hamstring muscles deactivate to allow for reduced resistance during motion of knee extension.  The opposite holds true such that hamstrings activate and quadriceps deactivate in knee flexion.  This is Sherrington’s law of reciprocal inhibition.

Muscular Forces From Quadriceps Can Cause Knee Joint Pain

When muscles are tight, the connected joint can get pulled in multiple directions.  (See image for example of quadriceps muscle forces pulling on the knee joint.)  The line of force on the joint is always along the length of the muscle.  When severe enough, the unbalanced muscular forces can actually alter the movement of the joint and cause repetitive joint stress to the point of pain.  This pain can mimic a plethora of arthritic conditions.  The interesting feature of muscular-related joint pain is that the muscles don’t often exhibit pain themselves.  Hence, the muscular spasm or tightness tends to escape detection as the true source of the joint problem.

Muscular-induced joint pain is the most common reason for joint pain.  It is also the most-missed cause of joint pain for the reason stated earlier, in that a muscle will often cause joint pain before the muscle elicits pain itself.  Differentiating arthritis from muscular-induced joint pain is key in determining the proper treatment solution for the patient.  Otherwise, joint pain that can be fixed through non-invasive methods will either persist or worse, lead the patient towards an unnecessary surgical procedure.

The moral of the story here is that arthritis is just one component of joint pain.  Muscles that are tight, overused, and/or imbalanced with its antagonist muscles cause joint pain as well and can resemble arthritis pain and other degenerative joint disease.  Any doctor or medical professional who claims joint pain is completely due to arthritis or other rheumatic joint disease has missed a compelling piece of the diagnostic puzzle, the role of the muscle.

If one is looking for a natural muscle rub to help in treatment of muscular induced joint pain and arthritis, August Point Wellness carries the Sciaticare Brand Penetrating Muscle Rub.  It is an all natural alternative to Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, and others.

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Misdiagnosis of Arthritis

Arthritis is a common complaint for many, especially as one gets older.  The sufferer doesn’t understand why they have joint pain and thus commits to a battery of procedures including X-rays, MRI’s, blood panels, medical reports, etc.  Sometimes, definitive sources of pain are found and the tests show severe tissue degradation or arthritic markers in the blood. But more commonly, the tests do not reveal sufficient evidence to prove that arthritis is even present.

This situation has played out countless times.  Data wrought with uncertainties leads to a shaky conclusion.  The patient is in pain and is looking for an answer.  The doctor, wanting to ease the patient’s concerns, may be too eager to point a finger at any anomaly found in the test results. The diagnosis of “I don’t know” or “I’m not quite sure” is unacceptable for most patients and the blame is directed at arthritis, a somewhat fuzzy amalgamation of signs and symptoms.  Patients easily accept arthritic pain diagnosis as a byproduct of the aging process, but  more testing is necessary to reveal the true source of the joint pain.

Here are a few reasons why arthritis is often misdiagnosed:

  • Doctors see something atypical in an x-ray – and immediately make a diagnosis.  No body is perfect.  There are abnormalities and variances in every human being’s anatomical structure.  Even movement and joint articulation will vary from person to person.  Finding an aberrant nodule or lesion somewhere in the joint capsule does not mean that arthritis is present.  Saying this, one must consider the idea that x-rays from two individuals showing the same joint abnormality may not create identical pain responses. Moreover, the two people may show considerable difference in the amount and type of pain elicited, even so far as to say that one may not show any local pain whatsoever.  Therefore, x-rays should be used as one part of a complete diagnostic exam, not the be all end all.  Especially in marginal to inconclusive scenarios, x-rays should accompany other positive test findings to make a more developed diagnosis.  Each patient should be evaluated on an individual basis.
  • Patients don’t get a second opinion – and rely on one doctor’s diagnosis.  Doctors make mistakes.  It is quite possible for an arthritis diagnosis to be incorrect, especially when symptoms do not fully fit the criteria of rheumatism.  The chances of a misdiagnosis are reduced if a second (or even third) opinion is sought out.  Additionally, patients should make an assessment of their doctor.  Pay attention to how they are being treated in his/her office.  If the doctor seems preoccupied, doesn’t listen, never tests the painful area, quickly prescribes medication, then maybe this doctor isn’t providing adequate patient care and attention.  Find a doctor who will listen.  Yes, some doctors may be good enough to take one look at the patient and figure out what’s wrong.  But these doctors are very few and far between.
  • Age is a believable reason for arthritis – Age is so often used as an excuse for joint pain that it goes without question.  It’s a sad affair that keeps perpetuating generation after generation.  Age is not the unquestionable cause of all joint pain.  Joint pain can be caused by numerous factors, including muscular imbalance, bone subluxation, inactivity, and postural deficiencies as well as the often stated age-related joint deterioration.  Uncovering the true source of pain is key to understanding what is truly wrong.

These are just a few thoughts on why arthritis gets misdiagnosed.  In order to lessen the risk of misdiagnosis, the patient should take a hands-on active approach to personal health.  It is always the responsibility of the patient to become an advocate for their own health, not the doctor’s.  It is also the responsibility of the patient to learn about their own pain.  Ask questions from your doctor.  Find groups with people experiencing similar conditions.  Learn what helps one’s own joint pain and what eases it. In this age of information, there are a lot of resources online.  Visit the doctor armed with some knowledge and understanding of the pain in question. It will go a long way towards achieving an accurate diagnosis and thus, a more comprehensive, effective solution.