Having Multiple Joint Pain But without the swelling?

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Joint pain is one of the most common problems in sports medicine, but even without sustaining any type of trauma in contact sports, we can also get joint pain during viral infections and other instances. Since joint pain is so common, nobody would be alarmed after experiencing such a widespread symptom. However, what if joint pain affects more than one articulation? What if you feel it’s spreading through your body? Would you think about arthritis and other concerning health problems?

In this article, we will talk about multiple joint pain and how important swelling is to diagnose arthritis. We will make a clear difference between arthritis and arthrosis and talk about different health problems that usually involves multiple joints but do not necessarily cause swelling in the articulations. So, what causes multiple joint pains but without the swelling?

How can you evaluate multiple joint pains?

 Joint pain is only one symptom, and it can be associated with many different diseases. However, various patterns would narrow down our search and increase our suspicion over certain diseases. That’s why the doctor asks so many questions and starts to examine our body afterward.

Multiple joint pain is also known as polyarthralgia. It appears in two or more articulations, and these can be either close or far away from each other. Polyarthralgia is one of the symptoms of arthritis, but this disease would also cause visible swelling of the articulations, red articulations that feel warm to the touch, and morning stiffness. Therefore, it is critical to assess whether or not the patient with polyarthralgia has these distinctive features. If they do not, it will be very unlikely to be diagnosed with arthritis.

However, there are many other questions to be asked. Is it associated with fever and fatigue? Is the patient complaining of bladder symptoms, red eyes or a skin rash? Thus, it is a very good idea to ask your doctor about your symptoms because there are many variations in each rheumatologic disease. However, you can rest assured that if you do not experience swelling in your articulations along with joint pain, it is probably not arthritis.

No more than simple Arthralgia?

Arthralgia is the clinical name given to joint pain, and it is a prevalent symptom in many different diseases, not only arthritis. You would classically get arthralgia when you get the flu and other viral infections that typically wear you down and make you feel sick as well. All of this happens as a result of the activation of the immune system against the viral disease.

Different from most types of bacteria, viral infections recruit normal cells in the body and causes an alteration to their metabolism, forcing them to replicate the virus. Thus, as a part of the immune response, our body needs to locate and destroy these infected cells, even if they are part of our own body.

After the body has curbed the infection, the white blood cells start launching an attack against infected mucosal cells. One of the substances they produce is called Interleukin-6, and it is responsible for joint pain and other symptoms in viral infections.

Similar to the flu, many other viruses affect the articulations. As influenza affects mainly the respiratory tract, other infectious agents target the muscles and articulations instead, creating arthritis-like symptoms that would go away when the viral infection has resolved.

Similar to what we have discussed about viral infections, some bacterial infections and other health conditions may also lead to multiple joint pain or polyarthralgia. This is called non-rheumatoid arthritis or seronegative arthritis because after testing the blood for rheumatoid factor it would give out negative results. In some cases, arthritis would be accompanied with swelling, but sometimes the inflammation is minimal and not evident.

So, if you can trace a relationship between multiple joint pain and psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, bowel infections, sexually-transmitted diseases, throat infections or eye problems, it is important to collect your memories about when did you start experiencing each symptom and talk to your doctor about it. This type of arthritis would also resolve after the root cause is addressed, and it is not likely to cause any deformation or long-lasting effect to your articulations unless you delay your diagnosis for too long.

Arthrosis vs. Arthritis

If you’re experiencing multiple joint pains without swelling, another possibility we have to rule out is arthrosis, which is the name given to the progressive deterioration of the cartilage by the normal wear and tear your articulations need to sustain over the years. It usually appears in seniors and starts in the articulations of the hands, feet, knees, or hips. It may also cause spinal pain, but it is not always associated with inflammation and redness in the articulation, which is one of the give-out symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis.

There are many ways to slow down the progression of the disease, and each particular case should be addressed by a professional because your treatment options will depend on your age, the articulation involved, and the integrity of the articular cartilage. It will also depend on your physical activity levels because there are cases of arthrosis in athletes and people who put a lot of strain on their articulations.

What are the Joint Swelling Symptom differences?

Many health conditions may cause multiple joint pains, not only rheumatoid arthritis. If you don’t experience any sign of swelling in your articulations, it is very unlikely you will be diagnosed with arthritis. These are the most prevalent causes of multiple joint pains without the swelling:

Simple arthralgia

  • It is usually the result of viral infections and resolves when the root problem is addressed.
  • It is accompanied with general malaise, fever, and other flu-like symptoms.
  • It does not cause any long-lasting consequences.

Bacterial infections

  • It might or might not cause swelling in the articulation, and the site of infection is not necessarily located in the articulation or nearby.
  • It resolves after the infection has been eradicated from the body.
  • It will only have long-lasting consequences if you delay your diagnosis.

Arthrosis

  • It is the result of the wear down of the articulation.
  • It’s not an inflammatory disease, but in some cases, it would include swelling in the articulation.
  • Treatment depends on your age, articulation involved and progression of the disease.

References:

Samanta, J., Kendall, J., & Samanta, A. (2003). Polyarthralgia. Bmj326(7394), 859.

Jones, A., & Doherty, M. (1995). ABC of rheumatology. Osteoarthritis. BMJ: British Medical Journal310(6977), 457.

Kvien, T. K., Glennås, A., Melby, K., Granfors, K., Andrup, O., Karstensen, B., & Thoen, J. E. (1994). Reactive arthritis: incidence, triggering agents and clinical presentation. The Journal of Rheumatology21(1), 115-122.

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