Common Rheumatic Pain

Q1. What are the common symptoms of rheumatism other than pain?
While many people may consult a rheumatologist whenever in pain, is pain a symptom of rheumatism? Are there any other symptoms? In Western medicine, rheumatism is an immune system disorder. The immune system will begin to attack the major organs when it becomes overactive. And pain is a common symptom in such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis.

Certain systemic rheumatic diseases, for example, lupus erythematosus, vasculitis, Behcet syndrome, scleroderma, etc., affect not only the joints but also other major organs such as skin, kidney, lungs, even the heart.

Some immune system diseases are rare, such as Sjogren’s syndrome and IgG4-related diseases. Also in the “rheumatic” category, they affect the lachrymal gland, salivary gland, etc.

Q2. What causes joint pain?
Those who consult a rheumatologist for their joint pain may have more than joint problems.  Besides rheumatism, the causes can also be muscle strain or even trauma in young patients, which is caused by their improper posture during exercise or carrying heavy objects at work. As it is not easy to know if one’s symptoms are rheumatism-induced or not, rheumatologists can pinpoint the causes and make a diagnosis with different methods.

Rheumatologists will first study one’s medical history, lifestyles, exercise routines, etc. before making a clinical decision or ordering examination.  Blood test or X-ray examination are usually arranged to help determine if the symptoms are associated with rheumatism or problems in the muscles, tendons, periosteum, etc.

Q3. How are the causes of musculoskeletal joint pain determined?
Thanks to recent medical advance, doctors can now pinpoint the causes with new technology. For example, musculoskeletal ultrasound is now used to examine patients with joint pain with increased diagnostic accuracy.  Magnetic resonance imaging is also recommended to patients with ankylosing spondylitis to assess the condition and exclude other possible causes of spine pain. These techniques can significantly minimise delay in treatment.

Q4. Are knee pain, low back pain and joint degeneration caused by osteoporosis?
Some people attribute their frequent pain in the shoulders, neck, back and knees to joint degeneration. But do they really have to do with osteoporosis? Though a hot topic in recent years, actually osteoporosis does not cause joint pain. In fact, most patients don’t know they have osteoporosis until they suffer bone fractures upon impact or after fall. In some elderly people, there may have been no impact at all. Their hipbones simply degenerate with age and finally collapse, resulting in hunchback and low back pain. If you are worried about developing osteoporosis, seek consultation and have bone density test as early as possible.  Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the incidence of bone fractures.

Check out YouTube videos from HKSH Medical Group for more health information.