Questions and Answers about Arthritis Pain
What Causes Arthritis Pain? Why Is It So Variable?
The pain of arthritis may come from different sources. These
may include inflammation of the synovial membrane (tissue that lines the
joints), the tendons, or the ligaments; muscle strain; and fatigue. A
combination of these factors contributes to the intensity of the pain.
The pain of arthritis varies greatly from person to person, for
reasons that doctors do not yet understand completely. Factors that contribute
to the pain include swelling within the joint, the amount of heat or redness
present, or damage that has occurred within the joint. In addition, activities
affect pain differently so that some patients note pain in their joints after
first getting out of bed in the morning whereas others develop pain after
prolonged use of the joint. Each individual has a different threshold and
tolerance for pain, often affected by both physical and emotional factors.
These can include depression, anxiety, and even hypersensitivity at the
affected sites due to inflammation and tissue injury. This increased
sensitivity appears to affect the amount of pain perceived by the
How Do Doctors Measure Arthritis Pain?
Pain is a private, unique experience that cannot be seen. The
most common way to measure pain is for the doctor to ask you, the patient,
about your problems. For example, the doctor may ask you to describe the level
of pain you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. You may use words like aching, burning,
stinging, or throbbing. These words will give the doctor a clearer picture of
the pain you are experiencing.
Since doctors rely on your description of pain to help guide
treatment, you may want to keep a pain diary to record your pain sensations. On
a daily basis, you can describe the situations that cause or alter the
intensity of your pain, the sensations and severity of your pain, and your
reactions to the pain. For example: "On Monday night, sharp pains in my
knees produced by housework interfered with my sleep; on Tuesday morning,
because of the pain, I had a hard time getting out bed. However, I coped with
the pain by taking my medication and applying ice to my knees." The diary
will give the doctor some insight into your pain and may play a critical role
in the management of your disease.