The mechanism behind microscopic colitis can lead to joint aches in some patients, and this symptom has a distinct characteristic.

Not all joint aches feel the same, and this goes for those linked to microscopic colitis, which I was diagnosed with in May 2010.

First, I’ll cut to the chase: The joint aches of microscopic colitis feel identical to PMS: premenstrual syndrome—for me, anyways.

Interestingly, not only are prostaglandins implicated in the pathogenesis of PMS, but they are implicated in the pathogenesis (development) of inflammatory bowel disease, of which microscopic colitis is one.

There are two types of MC: lymphocytic and collagenous. Their symptoms and treatments are the same, but they look different under a microscope.

Needless to say, a man would have no idea about this, and the women out there who’ve never had the joint aches of PMS would never know, either.

For men, and for women who’ve never experienced joint aches from PMS, here is what this particular symptom REALLY feels like — according to my subjective experience:

Microscopic Colitis Feeling: It’s not pain. It’s an ache.

However, the ache can be significant to the extent that it’s distracting or very annoying.

I’ve never had arthritis from a rheumatic condition, so I can’t say that the joint aches of microscopic colitis feel like—or don’t feel like—for example, those of psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

What I WILL say is that during a good flare-up in my ankles, I am compelled to stretch the Achilles tendon area by placing my foot flat on the floor and then flexing the ankle (bringing the knee over and past the foot). This brings relief.

The objective is to cause the joint to “pop” or “crack,” and for some mysterious reason, when there’s a flare-up (either from MC or, in the past, from my PMS), the joints are quite “poppable” or “crackable,” and it feels SO good to make this happen.

When my wrists are affected, it’s the same thing: I must stretch them and pop them.

When my low back is affected, I crave a chiropractic adjustment and find myself twisting my back left to right, trying to induce cracks and pops.

Same with when my neck is affected: I want to get a good crack in, and in the presence of a flare-up, my neck (as well as my back) are much more crackable.

My bikini line also gets affected (this area extends or “smears” a bit above and below the bikini line, extending several inches down the upper legs).

This area is quite poppable during a flare-up, but the popping comes from soft tissue near the junction of bone, rather than from any actual bone.

This same phenomenon occurs in the uppermost part of the back of my legs. I just want to keep stretching out that area, and when I do, it often pops—and it feels SO good.

This is what the joint aches of microscopic colitis feel like and make me crave to do. In summary:

– Identical to the feeling of PMS

– Compulsion to stretch the surrounding soft tissue

– Compulsion to induce a crack or pop of the bones and surrounding soft tissue

– Feels great when the crack or pop occurs

– There’s a mild element of stiffness, but nothing substantial. The stiffness is most noticeable in the low back, but it’s overshadowed by the aching.

Stretching, popping and cracking, however, do not make the aching disappear. They provide only temporary relief.

“Aching joints can be a symptom of microscopic colitis, but not necessarily. Many patients with aching joints don’t have microscopic colitis, but aching joints and gut problems often go hand-in-hand.

They’re both associated with inflammation, and many doctors speculate that cyclo-oxygenase (COX 2) or prostaglandins are involved because of the function they provide. Prostaglandins are chemicals that generally cause inflammation of our joints.”

– Dr. Jeffrey Fine, MD, the chief of gastroenterology at the Medical Surgical Clinic of Irving, as interviewed in another article of mine, Why Does Microscopic Colitis Cause Joint Pain?

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/
Sources: (prostaglandins and MC) (prostaglandins and MC) (prostaglandins and PMS) (prostaglandins and IBD) (flare-up of joint aches can occur separate from gut problem flare-ups)