Joint pain is the body’s way of telling you there’s a problem that needs attention.
Even temporary pain and swelling in the joints can be hard to deal with. Joint pain can appear as a redness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth of the joints. Joints may be stiff, display a decreased range of motion, or even lock or freeze. The pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating.
The most common pain complaints are in knee, shoulder, and hips, but joint pain can attack any part of the body from neck to ankles and feet; from shoulder to elbow, to wrists and hands. It becomes more frequent and widespread with age.
While most joint pain is temporary, in some cases it may become chronic and persist for long periods of time.
Also referred to as arthralgia, joint pain is very common and may be caused by any number of diseases, activities or other factors.
Medical Causes of Joint Pain
Some of the most common conditions that cause joint pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains, and other injuries.
There is a long list of medical diseases and conditions that cause pain in the joints, including:
- Ankylosing Spondylitis – an inflammatory disease that causes some vertebrae to fuse, reducing flexibility and affecting posture. If the ribs are affected, it can affect your ability to breathe deeply.
- Arthritis-Related – conditions that cause inflammation and pain in and around the joints and include fibromyalgia, gonococcal arthritis, gout, pseudogout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and septic arthritis.
- Autoimmune – diseases that attack the body’s own healthy tissue. Autoimmune diseases that can affect the joints include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis (including Still’s disease, which can cause serious damage to the affected joint, accompanied by pain, fevers, and rash).
- Avascular Necrosis – when blood flow decreases, causing atrophy or death of bone tissue and resulting in pain in the affected joints.
- Bone Cancer and Bone Diseases – osteomyelitis (bone infection), Paget’s disease, and rickets are examples of these types of diseases that can cause joint pain.
- Cancer – joint pain can occur due to cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – a condition that leads to extreme fatigue, coupled with, among other symptoms, joint and muscle pain.
- Colds and Flu – joint pain can occur in addition to the usual cold and flu symptoms of a sore throat, fever, aching sinuses, and headaches.
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a dysfunctional nervous system that causes chronic pain, including of the joints.
- Hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid, a condition that can contribute to joint and muscle problems, especially in the shoulders, hips, hands, and feet.
- Lyme Disease – an acute inflammatory disease transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. If left untreated, it can cause joint pain.
- Sarcoidosis – when inflammatory cells cluster in the body, especially in the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and skin.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases – STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause joint pain.
- Nonmedical Causes of Joint Pain
- Apart from injury or disease, there are some surprising causes of joint pain that may not be as well known. These nonmedical conditions include:
- Reaction to medications – certain medications, such as penicillin, can cause side effects that include joint pain.
- Alcohol and tobacco – abuse of alcohol and tobacco can cause numerous health problems, including painful joints. Smokers are at high risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while drinking includes a high risk of gout.