Joint pain can be debilitating and frustrating. It can make even the simplest tasks difficult to complete. If you are experiencing joint pain, you may be wondering how to best diagnose and treat it. This blog post will explore some of the options available to you for diagnosing joint pain and provide some information on how to get started on finding relief.
Early Diagnosis Is The Key
Early diagnosis is beneficial for many patients with joint pain, especially older ones. It may allow you to begin treatment sooner and reduce the risk of complications. Additionally, it is vital for any arthritis or musculoskeletal condition because it is necessary to find out what is causing your joint pain. Once your disease has been diagnosed, a treatment plan may be formulated that best suits your needs.
Early diagnosis and treatment may help improve the outcome and slow down the damage caused by the disease. For example, if you have a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis (OA), getting an early diagnosis will enable you to learn ways to protect your joints. Thus, saving it from further damage and keeping you as mobile as possible for a long time.
When it comes to analyzing joint pain, timing is crucial. This is because early diagnosis will eliminate the time spent guessing what might be causing symptoms or misdiagnosis. This may result in several tests being ordered or prescribed wrong medications or treatments, creating further complications.
Procedures To Diagnose Your Joint Pain
Do you feel that your joints are causing you pain? It could be due to several things. Though there are many different kinds of joint pain, the good news is that there is a way we may help in most cases. Let’s explore the methods on how we may help you diagnose your joint pain:
We’ll Ask You Questions About Your Medical History
When you meet with the doctor, they will ask you some questions about your medical history and current symptoms. You must answer these questions as thoroughly and honestly as possible. The more information we have, the better equipped we will be to make an accurate diagnosis. Your questions may include:
- When did the pain start? You should try to remember precisely when you first noticed it so we may get as precise a timeline as possible.
- Do you have a family history of certain types of arthritis? Certain forms of arthritis are hereditary, so knowing if your family members suffer from it may help us rule out specific causes for your joint pain.
- Have you experienced any fever or inflammation? Fever and swelling are common signs that something other than arthritis is causing your joint pain, such as an infection or gout.
- Have you experienced any other symptoms that might be related to this problem? This could include changes in mood, sleep patterns, bowel movements or appetite, difficulty performing routine tasks with either hand, etc. Any information about how this problem affects other aspects of your life may help us understand what is happening with you in greater detail.
- Have there been any recent injuries or illnesses that could have caused this issue? If there was some sort of traumatic injury associated with the onset of the pain. For example, playing sports without proper equipment and twisting an ankle. In that case, we need to know these details to include in our diagnosis and treatment plan. Similarly, illness unrelated to joint problems has been known to cause joint pain, so it’s important to let us know if anything like this has happened recently.
We’ll Conduct A Physical Examination
A physical examination is a standard part of the diagnostic process for joint pain. During this exam, your doctor will ask you to perform certain movements and observe how your joints function. This will help us understand what is causing your pain and where it may be coming from.
After reviewing your medical history, X-rays, and MRI results, if necessary, the doctor will begin your exam by asking you questions about your symptoms. Do you have any swelling or redness? Does anything make the pain better or worse? What activities cause discomfort? How long have you had this problem? The doctor will then ask you to perform a series of tasks so they may assess how well each joint moves:
- Walking around the room so they may watch how easily (or not) you move about on your own two feet.
- Sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other to see if one knee is more swollen or painful than the other.
- Stand up straight with arms at your sides to notice if one shoulder blade sticks out more than another. This helps identify any muscle weakness that may be contributing to joint dysfunction.
Your answers to these questions provide valuable clues as to what could interrupt smooth movement around your affected joint internally. Your doctor may also listen carefully at each joint for clicking sounds or crepitus (grating sensations), giving them information about any cartilage damage occurring within.
Apart from a physical exam, range of motion evaluation is most often performed using a goniometer device, an instrument that measures the angle at a joint. This measures the range of motion in degrees, from zero to 180 or 360, and comes in different shapes and sizes used on certain joints.
We’ll Check Your Muscle Strength
We will check your muscle strength and function. Muscle testing is a common assessment of strength, muscle groups, and joint mobility. It might help us identify the source of your pain. Testing involves pushing or moving various parts of the body against resistance. For instance, we might ask you to stand up from a squatting or sitting position. At the same time, we will apply upward force on a body part to see how much resistance you can offer against our downward pressure.
Testing also helps us determine which exercises might be best for you as a treatment program. We may use other tests during an exam that allow us to grade muscle strength on a scale of zero (very weak) to five (very strong).
We’ll Test Your Blood
A blood test may become one of our diagnostic tools when we diagnose the source of your joint pain. As part of the process, we’ll collect small samples of your blood and send them to a lab for analysis. The test may help rule out other conditions (and confirm certain types of arthritis) and identify inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriatic arthritis.
Moreover, your blood will be tested for uric acid levels—high uric acid levels may indicate gout; antibodies indicate rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests also show inflammation markers typically elevated in people with inflammatory types of arthritis. We may need multiple blood tests over time if the results are inconclusive.
We’ll Perform A Joint Fluid Analysis
It makes a soft pop sound when you bend a finger, knee, or elbow. That’s your joints releasing gas bubbles, which means they’re working correctly. The lubricating fluid inside your joints is made from water, dissolved oxygen, and nitrogen. With that said, the pressure decreases when you bend a joint, and gas bubbles form. When you straighten out your joint, the pressure rises again, causing those bubbles to burst with a pop. It’s like what happens when you shake up a bottle of soda and open it!
If there are problems with your bones, ligaments, muscles, or tendons—or if there’s an infection in your joints—your pop will be different. And that may help your doctor see what might be wrong. Your doctor may get a sample of this synovial fluid by drawing it out with a needle and syringe through an arthrocentesis procedure. The fluid will then be sent to a lab for analysis to see if it contains bacteria or other particles that don’t belong there.
The joint fluid may also be analyzed for protein levels, such as rheumatoid factor (RF) or antinuclear antibodies (ANA). This may indicate an autoimmune disorder (a disease caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells in the body). In addition, bacteria in the joint will be tested against various antibiotics to see which ones are most effective at killing them.
We’ll Perform Imaging Studies
Your doctor may perform one or more imaging studies to diagnose the source of your joint pain. Imaging studies help identify the cause of joint pain and may help determine the extent of the damage. Some common imaging studies include:
- X-ray – An x-ray may help your doctor identify bone damage or loss, tumors, infections, and other disorders affecting the bones.
- CT Scan – A CT scan (computerized tomography) is a series of X-rays taken from different angles and combined using a computer to produce cross-sectional images of the body. This type of scan helps detect bone damage and may also be used to detect soft tissue damage such as cartilage loss or muscle tears.
- MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and strong magnets to create detailed images of organs, soft tissues (muscles, tendons), joints, and other structures within your body. This test helps identify soft tissue damage such as meniscus injuries or muscle tears.
We’ll Perform A Bone Scan
A bone scan is an imaging test to help diagnose joint pain. During this test, your body will be injected with radioactive tracer substances called radiopharmaceuticals. We will perform this test if there is a valid reason your joint pain is caused by bone diseases, such as bone metastases or osteomyelitis. The bone scan may also be used to diagnose arthritis.
Furthermore, a bone scan procedure usually takes about two hours. It involves an injection phase, awaiting phase, and scanning phase.
First, you’ll receive an intravenous injection of the tracer substance in your arm or hand. Then there’s a wait of two to four hours for the tracer substance to reach your bones’ destination and allow the scans to pick it up effectively. During this time, you may do whatever you wish: read a book, watch TV, work on your laptop, etc. You’re free to leave during this period so long as you come back right before it’s time for the next stage of your appointment (the scanning phase).
You’ll lie down on a table during this second part of the process. At the same time, our scanners take pictures of your bones using gamma cameras or computed tomography (CT) scanning equipment that captures images of where the radiopharmaceutical has gone in your body. Finally, it may take up to 24 hours after the procedure for us to get test results from both sets of equipment used during each step of your appointment.
We’ll Perform A Bone Densitometry Scan
We perform bone densitometry, which is a special kind of X-ray procedure to measure bone loss. We might use this to diagnose osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak and brittle — so brittle that even mild stress or trauma may cause a fracture. If you have symptoms such as pain, swelling, or stiffness in your joints, Bone Densitometry may help us discover if they’re caused by osteoporosis.
The sooner we discover it, the better the chances of treating the problem. While most commonly seen in postmenopausal women and older people over 50, osteoporosis may happen at any age, sex or race.
We’ll Perform An Ultrasound
We often use ultrasound to evaluate the cause if you’re struggling with joint pain. Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses sound waves to vibrate tissues and organs. The vibrations create real-time images of the inside of your body that we might then use to help diagnose joint pain and other conditions. This technology lets us see how your joints move in real-time and how much fluid is present in or around them.
Furthermore, using ultrasound for an evaluation doesn’t require any special preparation on your part. You just need to come in wearing comfortable clothes that are easy to take off (since we might need to expose the area we’re examining). Also, bring a copy of any previous imaging tests you may have received for this condition. Usually, the procedure takes about 15 minutes on average, but it might take longer depending on your specific circumstances. We will update you every step of the way, so you know what’s happening.
We’ll Recommend One Or More Treatments
Depending on the diagnosis, we might recommend one or more treatments to help alleviate the pain and discomfort of our patients. These treatment options may include medications, physical therapy, and surgery. While we offer surgery for joint pain, it is generally only recommended after all other treatment options have been exhausted.
Moreover, we might advise you to change certain lifestyles, such as weight loss (if needed), increasing your activity levels, and avoiding routines that escalate pain and discomfort. And if you are a smoker, we will advise you to quit smoking as it may interfere with healing processes in joints that have been damaged by arthritis or injury. Also, we will recommend an exercise program to help improve strength and flexibility and which foods to avoid and eat more often.
We Are Here For You!
It may seem like there’s a lot to digest in this article. Don’t worry—you don’t need to keep all of these tips in mind at once. You should be fine if you remember what questions to ask yourself and your doctor when figuring out how best to treat you. And if you are skeptical of what steps to take, remember that we’re here for you. We know how to diagnose joint paint. Feel free to contact us any time!