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Causes of Synovial Joint Pain and Available Treatments

By: Our Medical Team | January 16, 2024

Often patients ask me about Synovial Joint Pain, and how they got it. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some practical information to help them better understand it.

Each bone in your body is connected by a joint, many of these joints are known as synovial joints. These joints allow for movement because of a thin layer of articular cartilage on the end of each of your long bones. In between the cartilage is a thin layer of fluid known as synovial fluid. This fluid is kept in the joint space by the synovial membrane, which is then backed by a sub-synovial membrane. When the cartilage becomes damaged or worn down and the joint becomes inflamed, it can result in synovitis and severe joint pain. There are a variety of treatments that are commonly used for synovial joint pain, but regenerative medicine which we provide here at South provides a less-invasive and highly effective treatment option.

Why does Synovial Joint Pain Occur?

The joints of the knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hands all contain synovial joints. These joints are each surrounded by a capsule, which serves to keep the synovial fluid within the joint. This capsule is composed of the synovial membrane and a tougher outer layer that is known as the fibrous stratum.

Outside the capsule, joints are supported with muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help provide strength and support the joint while permitting movement to occur. In synovial joints, there is only a maximum of about four milliliters of synovial fluid, which is less than a teaspoon. This small amount of fluid provides lubrication for smooth, painless movement. The fluid also serves as a source of nutrients for the cartilage, helping to repair parts of the joint that have become damaged.

When any part of the synovial joint becomes damaged, it can cause parts of the joint to wear down, leading to pain and limited mobility. The most common cause of synovial joint pain is overuse. If you repeatedly perform the same movements, such as squatting or lifting, the joints can become inflamed and the articular cartilage can begin to break down.

Synovial joint pain is also very common with arthritis. The inflammatory, or rheumatoid, arthritis occurs during an abnormal immune response when the synovial membrane grows too thick. The body then recognizes the cartilage within the joint as foreign and attacks it, which causes the cartilage to degenerate.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, which occurs when the cartilage within the joint is worn down over time and eventually becomes so thin that joints become stiff and painful. Both of these arthritic conditions can cause structural changes to the joints, altering bone alignment and leading to further joint damage and pain.

What Treatments are Commonly Used to Treat Synovial Joint Pain?

Synovitis is a common complaint, and it is important to treat it appropriately to prevent further joint damage from occurring. Some treatments can include exercise, weight control, and medications. One of the most common treatments is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Taking these medications can help to reduce swelling within the joints, improving range of motion, and limiting pain.

However, taking medications only masks the problem and does not truly address it. While you may feel less pain, your joints can become more damaged, which could lead to more severe problems in the future. Additionally, taking medications to reduce pain and inflammation on a long-term basis can lead to kidney or liver damage.

Another common treatment is the use of steroid injections. The injections are placed directly into the joint and contain cortisone, which is a steroid that reduces inflammation and pain. While this type of injection may also be effective at masking the pain, like medications, it does not address the root cause of the pain and inflammation.

The Benefits of Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine is at the forefront of medical treatment advancement. This type of therapy utilizes the body’s own healing capabilities by introducing a concentrated number of cells directly into the injured tissue to stimulate healing and regeneration. One of the most common regenerative medicine treatments for synovial joint pain is platelet-rich plasma.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves extracting a sample of blood, then centrifuging it to allow the red blood cells and plasma to separate from one another. The plasma is then removed and centrifuged again so that the platelet-rich plasma can be isolated. This plasma contains platelets, white blood cells, and many growth factors. These components all encourage cellular regeneration, promote healing, and recruit biologics therapy to the area to help create new tissue.

Platelet-rich plasma can be injected directly into the damaged synovial joint to help restore and thicken damaged cartilage and reduce inflammation. Many studies have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of this regenerative therapy. Researchers have found that platelet-rich plasma can significantly reduce pain levels, lower inflammation, and immune response, reduce synovial membrane thickness, and help restore damaged cartilage and bone tissue. If you suffer from synovial joint pain, platelet-rich plasma is a great option as it works to alleviate the root of the joint pain as opposed to simply masking it.


*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.