Joint pain can affect one or more joints.
Arthritis (inflammation of joints)
Joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries or conditions. No matter what causes it, joint pain can be very bothersome.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes stiffness and pain in the joints. Osteoarthritis involves growth of bone spurs and degeneration of cartilage at a joint. It is very common in adults older than 45 and can cause joint pain.
Joint pain may also be caused by bursitis (inflammation of the bursae). The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and pad bony prominences, allowing muscles and tendons to move freely over the bone.
Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
Gout (especially found in the big toe)
Infectious diseases, including
Epstein-Barr viral syndrome
Rubella (German measles)
Injury, including fracture
Unusual exertion or overuse, including strains or sprains
Follow prescribed therapy in treating the underlying cause.
For nonarthritis joint pain, both rest and exercise are important. Warm baths, massage, and stretching exercises should be used as frequently as possible.
Anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve pain and swelling. Consult your health care provider before giving aspirin or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen to children.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if:
You have fever that is not associated with flu symptoms
You have lost 10 pounds or more without trying (unintended weight loss)
Your joint pain lasts for more than 3 days
You have severe, unexplained joint pain, particularly if you have other unexplained symptoms
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history. The following questions may help identify the cause of your joint pain:
Which joint hurts? Is the pain on one side or both sides?
How long have you been having this pain? Have you had it before?
Did this pain begin suddenly and severely, or slowly and mildly?
Is the pain constant or does it come and go? Has the pain become more severe?
What started your pain?
Have you injured your joint?
Have you had an illness or fever?
Does resting the joint reduce the pain or make it worse?
Does moving the joint reduce the pain or make it worse?
Are certain positions comfortable? Does keeping the joint elevated help?
Do medications, massage, or applying heat reduce the pain?
What other symptoms do you have?
Is there any numbness?
Can you bend and straighten the joint? Does the joint feel stiff?
Are your joints stiff in the morning? If so, how long does the stiffness last?
What makes the stiffness better?
Tests that may be done include:
CBC or blood differential
Sedimentation rate, a measure of inflammation
Blood tests specific to various autoimmune disorders
Physical therapy for muscle and joint rehabilitation may be recommended. A procedure called arthrocentesis may be needed to remove fluid from the sore joint.