Joint inflammation is a common ailment that is characterised by pain, warmth, tenderness and swelling of the joints, and is often present in the morning when an individual first wakes, or following injury of the joint. Inflammation may affect a single joint or it can be widespread, affecting several joints at once.
Inflammation that is linked to injuries is typically short-lived, however, chronic inflammation can worsen over time if appropriate steps aren’t taken. Stick with us to learn more about joint inflammation and its causes, and how we can minimise pain to continue living a healthy, active and positive lifestyle.
What is Joint Inflammation?
Inflammation is a process which occurs when your body’s immune system triggers a response to infection or illness. The immune response involves the release of disease-fighting chemicals including immune proteins and white blood cells which play a vital role in our natural immunity. White blood cells rush to the site of infection or irritant - for instance, a cut or open wound - as the blood vessels surrounding it dilate, and this response can cause swelling and redness in a localised area.
This activity may occur within a single joint, such as following a sports injury, for instance. The inflamed area may feel painful or hot, and this may worsen with any resulting infection.
While inflammation is an incredibly effective defence mechanism utilised by the body’s immune system to fight off hazardous bacteria and viruses, sometimes medical conditions can result in chronic joint inflammation across the body. Autoimmune disorders are diseases where the immune system responds to its own healthy tissues as it would a dangerous foreign body. Consequently, an inflammatory response occurs when there is nothing to fight off. Such chronic inflammation can result in tissue damage to the joint.
Which Types of Arthritis are Linked to Inflammation?
Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe a number of conditions that negatively impact joint health. Some types of arthritis are inflammatory and chronic, often starting in a single joint but gradually progressing to other areas of the body.
One of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis. This autoimmune disease often affects hands and feet in the first instance, on both sides of the body, but can progress to further joints and in some cases, even organs. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues and can lead to chronic joint paint and inflammation.
In some cases, infections can cause inflammatory arthritis, such as Septic Arthritis. This describes a condition in which an infection travels through the bloodstream from an infected area towards a joint. Although there is risk of damage to the joints if not treated quickly, Septic Arthritis usually improves with treatment and is not a chronic condition.
Joint Inflammation Symptoms
The most common symptoms of joint inflammation include:
- Painful joint
- Stiffness of the joint
- Difficulty moving the joint
Inflammation can also result in a general unwell feeling, with symptoms including:
- Aching muscles
- High temperature
What are the Causes of Inflammatory Joint Pain?
The pain and stiffness of joint inflammation comes from the chemicals released during the body’s immune response to infection (or to healthy tissues, in the case of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis). These chemicals – which encourage increased blood flow to a specific area – can cause some fluid to leak into tissues. This leakage results in swelling and can trigger your nerves so that you feel pain. This is called synovitis.
Chronic inflammation can lead to ligament damage and erosion of the bone which can add to the feeling of pain. In some cases, the vertebrae may even fuse together, which makes movement even more problematic and painful. A reduction in muscle strength results in further pressure on the joints also.
This painful result is a consequence of either injury, infection, illness or an autoimmune disorder.
Treatments and Remedies
Temporary inflammation caused by minor injuries such as small cuts is likely to improve over time on its own. In the case of more severe injuries, medical assistance is required. For chronic inflammation, there is a range of treatment options:
- Antibiotics can help to fight off bacterial infection.
- Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and other prescription medication such as Metformin.
- Corticosteroid injections – these can decrease inflammation and thus alleviate pain.
- Physiotherapy – this can help prevent further damage to the surrounding muscles.
- Dietary changes – there is some evidence to suggest that certain diets, such as plant-based, can help the body to fight joint inflammation.
- Alternative Medicine – many people find relief from natural medicine such as cannabidiol (CBD). Recent studies have shown that CBD, a natural, legal and non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, has anti-inflammatory properties and can effectively alleviate associated joint pain and stiffness. Cannabidiol can be taken as a CBD oil formulation or a pain relief cream such as Mission C’s CBD balm or CBD Joint and Muscle Cream.
Some home remedies may assist you further in alleviating the symptoms of joint inflammation.
- Regular exercise is crucial to strengthen the supporting muscles and help injuries to health more quickly.
- Massage can be an effective pain-relief.
- If inflammation is caused by an injury, RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) can be invaluable during the recovery process.
- Bath additives – natural additives to your bathtub, such as Epsom Salts or a CBD bath bomb, can help soothe and ease muscles and joints effectively alongside warm water.
Everyone is at risk of suffering from inflammation and joint pain at some stage of their life. However, you can reduce your risk of experiencing chronic inflammation by ensuring that you live an active life and keep a healthy weight. You can achieve this by exercising regularly, eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and Omega-3 fatty acids, and avoiding smoking.