What Causes Joint Pain?

Joint pain can be caused by injury affecting any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint. Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation that may be due to arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis or  infection.

Acute pain in multiple joints is most often due to inflammation, gout, or the beginning or flare up of a chronic joint disorder. Chronic pain in multiple joints is usually due to osteoarthritis or an inflammatory disorder (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or, in children, juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Symptoms can come on gradually or start suddenly. They’re often more severe than with osteoarthritis. You may feel pain and stiffness and have swelling in your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, feet, jaw, and neck. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints.

Depending on the cause of joint stiffness, joint redness, tenderness, warmth, tingling, or numbness of an affected area of the body may be present. Joint stiffness can be caused by injury or disease of the joint and is a common finding in the arthritis conditions.

While extremely rare joint pain can be a cause of cancer of the joint. Pain within the joint is a common cause of shoulder pain, ankle pain, and knee pain. Joint pain is also referred to as arthralgia. The sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to joint pain.

Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain can include

  • joint redness
  • joint swelling
  • joint tenderness
  • joint warmth
  • limping
  • locking of the joint
  • loss of range of motion of the joint
  • stiffness
  • weakness

A characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis is stiffness in the joints in the morning. Again, this is also a common problem in osteoarthritis, which can cause pain after long periods of inactivity, like sleeping. The difference between the two is that osteoarthritis pain usually subsides in about a half hour.

Refences – Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.