Want to learn more about this at Kettering Health?Learn More
Joint pain can be mild or severe, depending on the cause. Some pain results in soreness after certain activities, while other pain makes the smallest movement extremely difficult.
If your joint pain is keeping you from your daily activities, consult your doctor for relief.
Causes and Risk Factors of Joint Pain
Joint pain usually results from injury, infection, illness, or inflammation. Different symptoms can give your doctor clues to what type of joint pain you are experiencing.
Below are some common causes of joint pain:
- Arthritis: Nearly half of adults with arthritis report persistent joint pain.
- Disease: Some diseases can cause joint pain. For example, lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease with the common symptom of joint pain.
- Injury: A common cause of joint pain, injuries can result from excessive use of joints or from an impact that causes a fracture, sprain, or strain.
- Viral infection: Some infections may result in joint pain. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause complications that result in joint pain.
Joint Pain Symptoms
Joint pain can present as discomfort, pain, or inflammation resulting from any part of a joint, including cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons, or muscles. Joint pain can feel like an ache or feel more sudden.
It is time to see a doctor if your joint pain is severe.
Other symptoms that commonly accompany joint pain include the following:
- Limited joint movement
- Joint tenderness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Weakness in the joint, or the joint becoming unstable
It is important to make an appointment with your doctor if your joint pain is accompanied by
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint
See a doctor immediately if your joint pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by
- Joint deformity
- Inability to use the joint
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
Types of Joint Pain
There are three types of joint pain that can be caused by different conditions or injuries:
- Arthralgia: This joint pain could be due to injury, infection, immune disorders, allergic reactions, or degenerative diseases. However, with arthralgia, there are no inflammatory causes affecting the joints.
- Arthritis: This is inflammation of the joint with swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints.
- Polyarthralgia: People with polyarthralgia may have transient, intermittent, or persistent pain in multiple joints. It has many different underlying causes and possible treatments.
Diagnosis of Joint Pain
Diagnosis for the type of joint pain involves evaluation by a doctor, who will look at your medical history and perform a physical examination.
The doctor may ask whether the pain began after an injury or if there is a family history of joint disease. As part of the physical exam, a doctor will inspect the joints and check their range of motion.
Various tests may be required to make a diagnosis. These may include blood tests to check for the following:
- Antinuclear antibodies
- C-reactive protein
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Rheumatoid factor
- Uric acid
Imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, or CT scans may also be ordered to help with the diagnosis.
Treatment for Joint Pain
Mild joint pain can typically be managed with at-home treatments, but medical treatment might be necessary for severe or persistent joint pain.
For mild joint pain, try these at-home remedies:
- Apply ice to the joint for 15 to 20 minutes a few times a week.
- Apply a heating pad, soak in a warm tub, or take a warm shower to relax muscles and increase circulation.
- Avoid using your joint in ways that worsen pain.
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
A doctor will prescribe pain medication to relieve pain, but further treatment might be needed depending on the cause.
If joint pain is from an infection, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics or antivirals to reduce and manage the symptoms. If the pain is from an injury or arthritis, a doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation.
If pain persists, a doctor may recommend surgery.