Understand the joint anatomy and your joint pain conditions


We will be covering the basics of of the joint anatomy and the pain. Joint pain and ache is a popular problem faced by many people in all age range, not just older individual like many thought to be. Arthritis conditions in various forms can affect 1 out of 5 adults and 1 in 250 children. It causes huge effect on society and economy through loss of mobility, productivity and treatment cost. In fact, in New Zealand, arthritis causes loss of total to 5% of GDP (about 12 billion NZD).

Let's dive in and see what is joint pain and how to prevent it.


Simply speaking, a joint is a connection between two bones' end. These bone ends are wrapped by a layer called cartilage. Cartilage functions as a shock absorber and provides lubrication for movement.

There is also a container surrounding the two bone ends. It is called a joint capsule. Inside the joint capsule is a very important lubricating fluid for our joint called synovium fluid. Beside synovium fluid, there exist all sorts of strings attached to the joint to hold it together. These are called tendons or ligaments.

So, a joint is where two bones ends meets together. Like a machine, to move around, it needs supports – a cushion layer, lubrication and some “gears”.


There are many underlying conditions that directly leads to joint pain. The most common one is in different forms of arthritis. Research on what type of joint pain you have or consult with a doctor to determine the best course of action.

Below is a list of all possible causes of joint pain:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Cause of condition: Mainly immune system disorder


  • Swollen joints in symmetrical pattern e.g. both knees or wrists have pain
  • Warmth and redness in the joint
  • Pea-shaped bumps under the skin, especially in elbow or feet
  • Fatigue and weakness

Pain cause: Inflammation that leads to pain


Cause of condition: Wear and tear by age or injury


  • Stiff and limited range of motions
  • Bony lumps in fingers.
  • Changes in weather can trigger pain

Pain cause: bone end without cartilage rubs together, leading to swelling then pain

Infectious arthritis

Cause of condition: Virus and bacterias


  • Swelling and redness
  • Accompanied by chills and fever

Pain cause: inflammation that leads to pain


Cause of condition: Built-up of acidic “crystals” in joint


  • Sudden and severe pain
  • Often occurs at night

Pain cause: crystals poke around in the joint, causing inflammation, then pain

Strain and Sprain

Cause of condition: Sport activities


  • The severity of the pain of strains and sprains can vary
  • Strain symptom is usually a pain in the muscle as it is a muscle-tendon damage
  • Sprain, on the other hand, can be felt by immovable joint, and a pop or tear in the joint

Pain cause: can lead to swelling and pain

Other conditions that can cause pain in the joint: cartilage and ligament tear e.g. ACL tear. And, broken, dislocated and deformed bones. These conditions can have varied symptoms and diagnoses, so make sure to always consult with your healthcare professional.

There is one common theme in most of these scenarios: the pain feeling is caused by inflammation. For relieving pain, most of the time, the inflammation needs to be reduced.


Traditional treatments for joint conditions

Great efforts are being put into forming treatments that treat problems at the root, however, many challenges remain. Arthritis conditions still remain one of the biggest medical and healthcare challenges to overcome.

Some popular mainstream treatment includes joint injection, medication drugs, and biological drugs. These have serious and unpredictable side effects and require professional consultation before taking on. Treatment with these methods are often very expensive.

Popular pain relief products

Pharmaceutical: Ibuprofen, Celecoxib, Acetaminophen (e.g. Panadol)
Nutraceutical: Glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3s, curcumin

It is a common practice for doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs for joint pain. These drugs while certainly effective, they can have serious side effects. So, it is also a growing trend for doctors to prescribe nutraceuticals products to limit the use of drugs. For example, prescribing omega-3s can reduce the dosage of Ibuprofen.

Alternative treatments

A considerable number of joint pain sufferers find non-medication and non-traditional methods very beneficial. Alternative pain treatment methods are usually in form of nerve calm and physical therapy. Biological substances such as essential oils and food-related mixture is also used by many. Always be cautious when dealing with alternative therapies and consult with a professional. Below are primary examples.

Acupuncture: Fine needles inserted into skin to release blocked energy. A numerous number of people has found this treatment behavior and it is quite prevalent in Asian countries.

Chiropractic: A form of physical therapy. Mainly to alleviate dislocation, deformation and injuries. The principle behind chiropractic is to relieve nerve pressure in the spine and joint to relieve pain and restore functionalities.

Other methods: Arometherapy, Homepathy and Massage.



  • Avoid smoking and alcohol
  • Keep a healthy weight. Being overweight can put a lot of pressure on the joint.
  • Be hygienic, bacteria and virus can infect your joint and cause pain.
  • Keep good posture – avoid slouching


  • Avoid high sugar diet. Excessive consumption of sugar can lead to higher chance of
  • Consume more Omega-3s and 6s. Popular food source is fish, or supplementation of omega-3s from marine source is sufficient.
  • Consume more Calcium and Vitamin D. Popular food source is milk for Calcium. Fish and egg for vitamin D


  • General aerobic exercises such as walking and cycling
  • Weightlifting and strength training– maintain correct form
  • Light flexibility stretching and movements such as yoga and tai chi

Materials used to assist in writing this article

- No More Joint Pain - Yale University Press Link 

- Pain in the Joints - Lars Arendt-Nielsen Link 

- The Treatment of Arthritis - John Gahan, LCGI Link