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What is a Joint Disorder?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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A joint disorder is a medical condition involving the joints of the body. A number of conditions fall under the umbrella of joint disorders, ranging from hereditary conditions to acquired infections. Medical professionals such as rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, and geriatric specialists can offer assistance to patients struggling with joint disorders.

Some disorders are inherited, such as Paget's disease of bone, a condition in which bone remodeling is rapidly accelerated. The rapid breakdown and rebuilding of bone can cause arthritis in the joints. People can also acquire conditions like Charcot's joints, also known as neuropathic arthropathy, in which the joints are progressively destroyed because the patient has a reduced sensitivity to pain. People with this condition can develop inflammation and infection so severe that amputation may be necessary to correct the problem if it is not caught early.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is another example of a joint disorder. This condition involves the chronic inflammation of the bones of the jaw. Joint disorders can also include the development of tumors in the joints, as tumors can develop anywhere in the body, given the right conditions. Another disorder which can involve the joints is osteonecrosis, in which bone dies because the blood supply is impaired. The joints can also become infected in osteomyelitis.

One of the most famous examples of a joint disorder is gout, a painful condition caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints, classically in the big toe. Patients can also develop pseudogout, caused by calcium phosphate crystals. Gout has been plaguing people for centuries in many regions of the world, and these conditions can be very debilitating and frustrating, in addition to being challenging to treat.

Arthritis is another large family of conditions within the joint disorders, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, and Still's disease. In addition to appearing as a standalone condition, arthritis can also appear secondary to another disease. Many patients with Lyme disease, for example, develop joint pain and eventually arthritis. Treatment for arthritis usually focuses on managing the associated pain and stiffness, as the progressive damage generally cannot be reversed or repaired.

A joint disorder can be quite painful and difficult to treat. The sooner the condition is recognized and addressed, the better the prognosis will be, because many joint disorders cause progressive damage which may be difficult to address. Patients can support joint health with gentle exercise, a balanced diet, and attentive care to all the joints of the body.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By orangey03 — On Dec 18, 2011

My brother-in-law frequently suffered from gout, and it was so bad that he had to miss work. He kept taking naproxen for it, but it kept coming back after he had treated it.

After his third occurrence of gout, he visited his doctor, who tried to determine his lifestyle choices that might be bringing it on. He found out that my brother-in-law drinks every day, and he isn't on any medication to treat his high blood pressure.

Since he has slowed down his drinking and started taking a blood pressure medication, he hasn't had as many flareups. I think he is willing to do anything to avoid that intense pain.

By Perdido — On Dec 17, 2011

@wavy58 – It can be so frustrating to develop arthritis at a young age. I play piano and guitar, but my joints started to hurt when I was thirty-two, and the pain was so intense that I cut way down on my playing.

Then, a friend told me about compression garments. She gave me a pair of gloves that are designed to apply slight pressure to my joints as long as I have them on. This eases the swelling and pain of arthritis.

I wear them around the house a lot, and I can play my instruments much more now. If I do have a flareup, I just put the gloves back on when the pain starts, and it gets better.

By wavy58 — On Dec 17, 2011

I just turned thirty last year, and I have already begun to experience arthritis at times. It used to be that I could do things with my hands for hours and not feel any pain. Now, I can do an activity for under an hour and suffer the next day.

I have been gardening all summer for the past four years. I do a lot of the work by hand, like yanking up weeds. This past season, my fingers ached and burned a lot the day after I did the work.

Because I have a kidney condition, my doctor told me not to take any ibuprofen or aspirin. Pretty much all drugs used to treat arthritis are off limits. Is there anything I can do to ease the pain, or will I just have to quit gardening altogether?

By kylee07drg — On Dec 16, 2011

I have TMJ disorder, and though it can be pretty painful at times, it doesn't always bother me. Generally, it hurts whenever I open my mouth very wide.

Yawning, opening my mouth for the dentist, and opening it to fit in a big sandwich are all things that cause my jaw to pop. Once, it got stuck open for a few seconds, and I panicked. After I moved my lower jaw to the side, it came unstuck.

I do go through periods of pain that last for days, but I don't know what causes these episodes. It feels like a headache in the jaw, and I have to take pain relievers to deal with the discomfort.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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