What's causing my joint pain?
August 16, 2011 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me work out the cause of joint pain over the last two weeks.

I have suffered from back pain for around 11 years now (I'm 27), slipped a disc 3 times (ages 16, 19 and 24 - heavy lifting, snowboarding and slightly wrong posture putting strain on a disc respectively). I've suffered from sciatica, although none for around 3 years, and no disc/lower back pain for 2 years.

I had a mild cold and flu virus 3 weeks ago, and it's left me with pain the worst in my hips, but also wrists, knees and ankles. This has been going on for two weeks, I went to a drop in doctors and they suggested a blood test to look for inflammation, and I'm waiting to get an appointment for that at the right time as I am too new at my job to get paid for sick days.

A friend who's a nurse thinks stress is causing it, new job plus house move logistics are probably making me more stressed than normal?

It seems to be worst after less than 7 hours sleep, but maybe correlation rather than causation?

I am going trying to book a doctor's appointment currently (yay NHS!) but wanted a bit of hive mind brainstorming.
posted by ellieBOA to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Joint pain can be left over from a viral infection, it can also be due to an auto-immune disorder. That is probably what they will test your blood for--the standard screening test they give everyone is the ANA which, if positive, would lead to further testing.

Of course, stress can have all kinds of nasty side effects, so there's that.

There are other things that could be going on, too, but that's the one that I know about!

For what it's worth I have an autoimmune disorder with joint pain and it is manageable and has been mild for years. Rest definitely helps!
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:55 PM on August 16, 2011

Reactive arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be set off by cold/flu-like symptoms. I may have confirmation bias, but what you described read like autoimmune to me.

Like the young rope-rider, I've got an autoimmune disease, but mine was misdiagnosed as "stress" for ages, mostly by lazy doctors who didn't want to investigate it fully. If you don't feel stressed, then don't accept that. Yes, stress can cause physical maladies, but what you're talking about is bilateral joint pain in multiple joints. That's a big deal, especially if it doesn't go away in the next couple of weeks.

I would ask the doctor for an ANA, sed rate, and rheumatoid factor blood test. Also, I would start taking low-dose anti-inflammatory medication on a regular schedule. I was taking 500-800 mg ibprofin every 4-6 hours before my diagnosis. The thing with AI drugs is that you need to keep them constant in the blood stream - if you don't, it's not nearly as effective. Obviously IANAD, but that did help me and in the short term is probably worth trying.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:05 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guster4lovers, will try the regular ibuprofen, I've been taking codeine and ibuprofen combined but hasn't been making much difference. I will ask the doctor about autoimmune, thanks young rope rider too.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:13 PM on August 16, 2011

Tylenol never does anything for my joint pain, opiates make me care about it less but don't really relieve it. Advil is myOTC go-to as well, although I've used naproxen before with success.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:22 PM on August 16, 2011

Besides the other tests, you might ask about Vitamin D - deficiency can lead to general achiness that isn't quite in the muscles, quite in the bones, or quite in the joints (but you might feel it more some places than others.)

Even if you've been getting plenty of sunlight, you might not be storing it or processing its creation as well as you need to, and maybe the cold knocked you out hard enough the deficiency is catching up to you.
posted by modernhypatia at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fish oil capsules. Take them. The kind made from small non-farmed fishes (sardines, mackeral, ancovies.)

Like you, big back issues. Recently started taking those regularly - WOW. It's supposed to help with inflammation and other stuff. I concur.
posted by jbenben at 3:46 PM on August 16, 2011

My chronic knee pain has been greatly diminished by the cliche apple-a-day. Maybe the pectin? Can't hurt.
posted by squalor at 4:36 PM on August 16, 2011

Scoliosis/Ehlers-Danlos with myriad shitty joints here.

I ache a fair bit most of the time. It's always one part of my body or another. All it takes is sitting in a non-ordinary position for more than a few minutes.

Two observations:

Whenever I get a body-ache oriented flu, it really sucks and the ache lasts longer than anything else. Drinking an excess of electrolytic fluids seems to help this.

Whenever I get a flu or other energy sapping disease I end up sitting/laying around which stresses my joints in novel ways which can exacerbate aching. Gentle stretching and generally moving about as usual helps this.

As for inflammation I'm sure there're all sorts of cool tests which can be done. In my experience though most if not all my inflammation readily exhibits at least three of the classic symptoms (rubor, dolor, calor, tumor and functio laesa -- redness, pain, heat, swelling and reduced function). Typically dolor, calor and functio laesa (to varying degrees) are present for me. I'd say if you have a good cluster of those, you're having an inflammatory reaction thereabout.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:55 PM on August 16, 2011

You just need a good doctor and thorough blood tests for the usual suspects. Everything else is speculation.
posted by nogero at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2011

The advice to take ibuprofen (short term), fish oil, Vitamin D, and to eat an apple a day is not likely to cause harm. But you should still be in touch with your doctor.
posted by theora55 at 7:25 PM on August 16, 2011

This is almost certainly "reactive" arthritis, where your body's immune defenses are activated by a virus but carry on for too long and somehow fail to recognise your joint tissues as non-foreign. The clue usually lies in the preceding viral illness, the sudden onset, and the more or less symmetrical involvement of many joints. Absence of a family history of rheumatoid or similar arthritis also helps confirm the diagnosis.

I've had it myself, and it is quite disabling although self-limiting/temporary.

All the advice above is good - simple analgesics (taken on a continuous basis for as long as a week), fish oils, vitamin D (and C) should help. Despite being a medic, I was amazed at how disabled I was for about 3 days! By all means have them test you properly (including, if the case with you, aspirating some joint fluid), but it is likely to settle of its own accord. If tests come back positive or things haven't settled after a week then you may indeed have something more worrisome. The main thing in the interim is to accept that you are off work and off play, so rest and indulge yourself in something you enjoy indoors (I don't necessarily mean sex - that might be memorably painful unless you remain very passive!). But make sure you are not entirely immobile, as too much rest can leave your joints stiffened up. Good luck!
posted by kairab at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, I have a doctors appointment with a blood test on Saturday morning :)

Saw a nurse yesterday who suspects it's viral arthritis, so have started taking 200mg ibuprofen every 4 hours yesterday which feels a lot better, joint pain is easing so will see what the blood test shows on Saturday.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:14 PM on August 18, 2011

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