Ankle pain can be caused by something as minor as an ill-fitting shoe or as major as an injury. Many kinds of ankle pain originate on the outer, or lateral, side of the ankle. People with ankle pain often complain about difficulty walking or participating in sports. Some types of ankle pain are constant and dull and can be accompanied by imbalance, swelling, stiffness, or tenderness. More serious types of ankle pain can be caused by a sprain, which happens when the ligaments between the bones are stretched or torn. Without medical attention and/or physical therapy, an untreated ankle sprain will often leave your ankle permanently disabled or weak, leaving you open to repeated sprains and other injuries.
Another kind of ankle pain is neuropathic, or nerve-related. This happens when the nerves that pass through the ankle become pinched or stretched, torn, injured by a direct blow, or under pressure.
Other sources of ankle pain include:
- A torn or inflamed tendon
- Arthritis of the ankle joint
- A fracture
- Synovium, which is inflammation of the joint lining
- Scar tissue formation in an ankle joint following a sprain; the scar tissue fills up the space in the joint, putting pressure on the ligaments
Eighty percent of Americans experience one form of back pain or another during the course of their lives. More men over the age of 45 are disabled by back pain than any other condition. It is the third most common reason for surgeries. Because of this, people complaining of back pain cannot be easily diagnosed. This is because the spine is such an incredibly complex structure of bones, muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Injury or disease affecting any one or more of these structures can often trigger an episode of pain.
Lower back pain is often caused by a muscle strain. The erector spinae, or large paired muscles in the lower back that help keep your spine erect, can become inflamed and spasm. In more serious cases, the pain may be caused by a degenerative condition, such as arthritis, disc disease, or disc herniation.
A degenerative disc condition can sometimes cause a chain reaction of other events in your spine; when a disc is not in its proper place, or is malformed from disease or some other condition, it can allow additional undue pressure on other healthy structures such as neighboring discs, nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Rest, ice or heat therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin are often the first course of treatment for mild lower back pain. This allows your muscles to return to their normal position and begin to heal.
Because the thoracic spine is the sturdiest part of the spine, it is less prone to injury. That said, upper back pain, while less common than lower back pain, is often caused by irritation of the muscles or a problem with a joint. Other less common causes of upper back pain include herniated or degenerative discs.
However, rest for a sore back should be kept to no more than two weeks. Otherwise, the muscles in the lower back begin to atrophy, and can become significantly weak and leave you open to further undue pain and injury.
If you experience pain in your elbow, chances are very good it was incurred in an injury or physical activity, such as exercise or sports. Here's a look at some types of elbow pain:
- "Golfer's elbow" is a type of elbow pain that originates near the inside part of the bony protrusion. This type of pain is also caused by a tear or rupture in the tendon supporting the elbow bone.
- "Locked elbow" is a type of pain that occurs when the elbow bones or their surrounding muscle fibers become stiff or immobile from disease or injury.
- "Student's elbow" is another term for bursitis, or swollen sacks under the elbow joint. This is often caused by repeated rubbing of the elbow on a hard surface, such as a desk.
- "Tennis elbow" is a layman's term for pain on the lateral, or outside part of the elbow, on or near the bony protrusion. Tennis elbow is caused when the tendon from the elbow bone tears or is ruptured. It's no surprise that professional tennis players can become afflicted by this with all of the stress and strain they place on the joint during play.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, while chiefly affecting the wrist, can cause elbow pain if an inflamed tendon pinches a nerve going to the elbow.
- Tendonitis can cause elbow pain and is caused by an elbow tendon that has become swollen or inflamed when the forearm tendon is damaged.
Heel pain, like ankle pain, can be caused by something as simple as bad shoes or an injury. But more often than not, heel pain is associated with problems with the nerves, tendons and ligaments of the foot.
The repetitive pounding of one's heel on hard surfaces, to which women who wear high heels can attest, can cause painful heels.
Other sources of heel pain:
- Achilles tendonitis, which is caused by repeated and sudden contraction of the calf muscles.
- Heel bursitis, which is essentially an inflamed rear heel and is often caused by falls.
- Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament running from the front of the heel bone through the bottom of the foot. Repetitive motions such as quick stops and starts during sports, or long distance running, have sometimes been associated with Plantar fasciitis.
Pain in the jaw comes from a wide variety of things. Sometimes, jaw pain is caused by an injury. In many cases, however, jaw pain is caused by a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the ball and socket joint on each side of your jaw. This joint connects the lower jaw to the skull near the front of the ear. A properly formed TMJ allows the jaw to move smoothly in various directions, and plays an important role in talking, chewing, and yawning.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs) are caused by problems with the muscles of the jaw or the joint itself. A clicking or popping sound when opening the mouth wide, such as in yawning, may be a sign that you have a problem with your TMJ.
TMDs result from a variety of things, such as traumatic blow to the head (including whiplash), teeth grinding or clenching, and arthritis.
People with TMD sometimes experience chronic headaches, earaches, and facial and dental pain.
The human knee is a marvel. Although it is an incredibly complex and sturdy structure, it also is more prone to injury than any other bony structure besides the spine.
Common causes of knee pain:
- Arthritis of the knee - Arthritis most often causes problems with the knee joint, but also can affect other structures such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in the knee, is caused by the gradual degradation of the cartilage in the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the joint to become inflamed and can often cause destruction of the surrounding cartilage. A deformity often leads to arthritis in the knee, but more often, obesity or excess weight, or repetitive stress injuries from sports, are the culprit. Symptoms include stiffness or locking joints.
- Cartilage injuries - including chondromalaciapatellae, a softening of the knee cap cartilage. This disorder occurs most often in runners, skiers, cyclists, and soccer players.
- Iliotibial band syndrome - Inflammation of a tendon and its subsequent rubbing over the outer knee bone is most often caused by the stress of long-term overuse, such as sports training. Symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome include aches or burning sensations at the side of the knee; sometimes, the pain can radiate up the side of the thigh.
- Ligament injuries - The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) can become sprained, and cause a great deal of pain. Injury to the cruciate ligaments is sometimes referred to as a "sprain." The ACL can become stretched or torn by a sudden twisting motion. The PCL is most often injured by a direct impact, such as in an automobile accident or football tackle. Injuries to the medial collateral ligaments are often caused by a blow to the outer side of the knee that stretches and tears the ligament on the inner side of the knee. Football and hockey players often incur these kinds of injuries. The injury is often accompanied by a "pop" sound, followed by a buckling of the knee sideways.
- Meniscus injuries - Quick twists or rotations of the upper leg or repetitive rotations of the knee while bearing weight can tear the meniscus.
- Osgood-Schlatter disease - This condition is caused by repetitive stress or tension on the upper tibia, or leg bone. The patellar tendon and surrounding soft tissues at the point where the tendon attaches to the tibia can become inflammed. Pre-adolescent boys involved in sports that include frequent running or jumping are particularly prone to this.
- Tendon injuries - Tendon injuries in the knee can be caused by anything from tendonitis to a ruptured or torn tendon. Overuse can cause the tendon to stretch like a rubber band, later becoming inflamed.
The largest nerve in the human body may be responsible for one of the most common causes of leg pain. The sciatic nerve connects the spinal cord with the leg and foot muscles, and runs down both sides of the lumbar spine, through the buttock and back of the thigh, and down to the foot.
Many kinds of leg pain can be traced to problems with the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain occurs when one or more of the spinal nerves become compressed. A disc herniation is often the culprit. Other causes include spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and arthritis.
While the pain typically travels down, or radiates, along the sciatic nerve, it is often felt in the lower buttocks, the back of the leg, and even the bottom of the foot. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and/or a burning or prickling sensation.
It is very important that you seek medical attention if you experience these kinds of symptoms, because long-term compression of the sciatica nerve can cause permanent damage. In addition, untreated sciatica nerve damage can cause such problems as loss of bladder and bowel control.
Your cervical spine connects your brain stem to your spinal cord. It is an area rich in blood vessels and other soft tissue such as ligament and tendons. Neck pain is slightly less common than back pain, but no less important or treatable.
Common causes of neck pain include, but are not limited to a:
- Cervical herniated disc
- Cervical stenosis, which is caused by a herniated disc or degenerative joint, can cause pain to radiate down the arm, and lead to shooting pain and coordination problems in the arms and legs
- Muscle strain
- Degeneration of the facet joint cartilage
- Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees
A sprain of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the neck area usually causes acute neck pain. Vehicular accidents, repeated carrying of heavy items such as luggage, or awkward sleeping positions are often the culprits. Most minor ligament or tendon injuries in the neck will subside with proper care, including rest, ice or heat application, and rehabilitation such as chiropractic care and physical therapy. One common symptom of chronic neck pain is an ache that that radiates down the arm, sometimes into the hands and fingers, accompanied by numbness or tingling. Foraminal stenosis, a condition caused by degenerative changes in the neck joints, involves a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. This in turn causes chronic neck pain.
Neuropathic pain is a debilitating form of chronic pain that results from peripheral or central nervous system damage. When the damage is peripheral in nature, it is often referred to as nerve pain, sensory peripheral neuropathy, or peripheral neuritis.
Neuropathic pain is really a disease caused by malfunctioning nerves. Types of neuropathic pain include pain that radiates down the leg or arm or follows and persists after back surgery or other procedures.
Even the lightest touch can set off a sharp or shock-like shooting pain in people with neuropathic pain, who often complain of symptoms, such as unrelenting numbness, tingling, weakness, or burning or cold sensations.
Left untreated, neuropathic pain can lead to a host of other problems, including but not limited to anxiety, insomnia, depression, and withdrawal.
Largely because of the physical and hormonal changes to their bodies, many pregnant women can experience various kinds of back pain.
Here's a look at some of the kinds of pain pregnant women are prone to:
- Coccyx (tailbone) pain.
- Groin pain.
- Pelvic pain-Pelvic pain usually begins during pregnancy, but typically during the end of the final trimester.
- Pubic pain.
- Sacroiliac joint pain (the sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum, or triangular bone at the bottom of the spine, with the pelvis, or iliac bone.
- Upper leg pain.
Shoulder pain can be caused by a wide variety of things, including a subluxation, or vertebral misalignment, or injury.
Most often, shoulder pain can be traced to tenderness or soreness of the rotator cuff tendon. The rotator cuff is the part of the shoulder that allows you move your arms in a circular motion.
In other cases, the bursa, or fluid sack, in your upper shoulder can become inflamed after a period of heavy lifting or other kind of physical activity involving repeated raising and lowering of the arms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably the most common source of wrist pain. Symptoms may include soreness, numbness or tingling, or a burning sensation.
Carpal tunnel is caused by compression in the median nerve of your hand. The compression causes swelling.
Carpal tunnel is more common among people who have repetitive wrist movements, such as sewing, painting, and writing; using a computer; and playing racquetball or handball. Diabetes, arthritis, pregnancy, and obesity have also been linked with carpal tunnel as well.
Other causes of wrist pain include:
- Arthritis (joint inflammation), including osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, the small sac containing fluid that lies between tendons and bones)
- Fracture or other injury
- Gout (a form of arthritis that occurs as a result of the build-up of uric acid in the body and the joint fluid)
- Muscle sprain or strain
- Tendonitis (irritation of a muscle tendon, which is the rope-like muscle that attaches to the bone)