When you think of Crohn’s disease, you may think of the digestive system and abdominal discomfort. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The immune system wrongfully attacks the intestines and the lower digestive tract, causing inflammation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, unintended weight loss, and bloody stool. But few people know that Crohn’s disease can even increase your risk of joint pain.
Joint pain, or arthritis, in Crohn’s disease patients is actually a common complication and affects up to 30 percent of patients.
If joint pain isn’t accompanied by swelling, it is referred to as arthralgia rather than arthritis.
Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, from the smaller joints in the fingers and toes to larger joints in the legs. Patients experiencing arthritis with Crohn’s disease may develop redness, swelling, reduced mobility, stiffness, and heat on the affected area. In some cases, arthritis in IBD patients can lead to lasting damage.
For some patients, the treatment of Crohn’s disease may increase the risk of joint pain. If you experience this, then you need to speak to your doctor.
To properly diagnose your joint pain, your doctor may run blood tests, joint fluid analysis, and imaging tests such as an ultrasound, x-ray, or MRI.
Possible medical treatments for joint pain include corticosteroids, methotrexate, sulfasalazine, opioid medications – including tramadol and hydrocodone – and biologic drugs.
Alternative remedies include regular exercise to strengthen muscles, physiotherapy, aqua therapy, acupuncture, and soft tissue techniques such as massages.
To reduce joint pain, it may also be helpful to lose excess weight, which can put extra strain on painful joints. You should also learn safe techniques to lift or carry objects, adjust your chair for better support, wear supporting and good-fitting shoes, and know when to rest painful or swollen joints.
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