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Understanding the Signs of Joint Inflammation

Joint inflammation is a natural process in which the body’s immune system responds to a potential or perceived threat such as an infection or a virus. This usually results in swollen and painful joints.

Let’s take a closer look at the process.

What Joint Inflammation Looks Like

In ancient medicine, inflammation was characterized by five main signs: pain, loss of function, heat sensation, redness, and swelling. The visual changes observed during inflammation were taken into account to create this classical description of the condition. Each of the five signs has since been attributed to specific factors or processes that explain the outcomes.

man throwing ball in water polo

For instance, joint swelling is now known to result from the movement of fluid from dilated blood vessels into the tissues surrounding them. Similarly, the sensation of heat and the redness caused during inflammation have been linked to the movement of blood toward the extremities. The pain experienced within the joints is due to the initial damage or to the inflammatory response that occurs because of the damage. Loss of function occurs due to the swelling, the pain, or the replacement of functional cells within the joint.

Today, joint inflammation is seen as more complex than it originally appeared to be. While the signs are the same, we now have more clarity on why they occur. Joint inflammation is also understood to be a healing and restorative process in many cases. There’s also a deeper understanding of chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis that cause debilitating destruction of joints.


Whether you’re experiencing short-term joint inflammation due to an injury or treatment, or inflammation resulting from a chronic illness, you’re likely to encounter the following symptoms at or around the affected joint:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Sharp aching
  • Loss of mobility
  • Warmth

man with shoulder pain

How Joint Inflammation Can Be Treated

The mode of treatment used for joint inflammation depends on the kind of inflammation you’re experiencing. For instance, if the inflammation is a result of a recent hip or knee surgery, physical therapy and medication can help. This type of inflammation isn’t expected to last long and usually goes away within a few days or weeks.

In case of more severe inflammation, you may be required to undergo a more involved pain management regimen, which may include pain medication and changes to your lifestyle, including diet. Depending on the root cause of the inflammation, your doctor will want to address your condition while making you comfortable. If the source of the pain is in your joints, you may need joint surgery to find relief.

At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we offer multiple pain management remedies through our Orthopedic Center of Excellence to help patients recover from joint inflammation. Visit our website to find a doctor in the Webster, TX, area or anywhere in Houston who can help you find relief.