Facts on Joint Pain
- Joint pain can be caused by injury of the adjacent tissues or joint disease.
- A joint is the area at which two bone ends meet to provide motion to a body part. A typical joint is composed of bones that are separated by cartilage that serves as cushioning pad for the adjacent bones.
- Ligaments attach bone to bone around the joint.
- Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that provide a gliding surface for adjacent tendons.
- Tendons attach muscle to bone around the joint.
- Injury or disease to any of the structures of the joint can lead to pain in the joint.
- Joint pain is also referred to as arthralgia.
- Symptoms and signs associated with joint pain include morning stiffness, inflammation, and warmth.
What Are Common Causes of Joint Pain?
Joint pain can be caused by injury or disease affecting any of the ligaments, bursae (for example, bursitis), or tendons surrounding the joint. Injury or disease (for example, the autoimmune diseases systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis) can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, and bones within the joint, leading to a painful joint. Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (arthritis) and infection (for example, Lyme disease) and can be a feature of rare tumors of the joint (for example, pigmented villonodular synovitis) or chronic fatigue syndrome.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Joint Pain?
Arthralgia can be aggravated by motion, pressure, or weight-bearing resistance with activity. Joint pain can be associated with signs and symptoms such as joint stiffness, local warmth, swelling, and tenderness.
When Should I Call the Doctor about Joint Pain?
If you have symptoms that persist after one week, it should be evaluated by a health care practitioner. Moreover, severe pain in the joint should be medically evaluated as soon as possible.
What Are the Exams and Tests for Joint Pain?
The health care professional will take a history of your symptoms leading up to and associated with your joint pain. What activity(ies), if any, that you were doing when your joint pain symptoms began should be discussed. Aggravating and relieving conditions that affect the degree of your pain will also be important to discuss. After an examination, further testing might be necessary, including blood tests and X-rays or other imaging studies. Occasionally, MRI scanning is helpful if the problem requires further definition.
Pain Management: Surprising Causes of Pain
What Are Treatment Options for Joint Pain?
The treatment of joint pain is directed toward the precise underlying cause. If the problem is an injury, the initial treatment often includes rest, cold applications, and anti-inflammatory medications. Additional medications for pain control may or may not be required. Gradual rehabilitation physical therapy may be needed.
If the cause of the joint pain is arthritis-related, anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended, followed by other medications directed at the cause of the arthritis. If there is disease of the bone, ligament, or cartilage, surgical operation may be required.
What Are Some Home Remedies for Joint Pain?
Initial self-care for joint pain at home might include natural remedies like rest and cold application. People may take medication to control pain and inflammation. With chronic joint pain, a medical evaluation by a health care practitioner is warranted.
What Is the Medical Treatment for Joint Pain?
Medical treatment depends on the underlying cause of the joint pain as discussed above. Arthritis pain can require anti-inflammatory medication and a variety of other medications depending on the type of arthritis. Surgery can be required for cartilage or ligament damage.
What Are the Medications for Joint Pain?
Medications used to treat joint pain depend on the type of joint pain as described above.
What Is the Follow-up for Joint Pain?
After an initial evaluation and treatment plan, it is extremely important to have follow-up medical monitoring by your health care professional if requested. During these visits, the results of tests are reviewed and the effects of medications are monitored. Further testing may be indicated based on the symptoms present at the time of follow-up.
How Can I Prevent Joint Pain?
Whether or not joint pain is preventable depends on whether it is caused by injury or rheumatic disease. Injuries to joints can often be prevented by proper sports gear and training. Weight loss can help reduce stress on the joints. Disease generally is not avoidable, but once medical treatment programs have been initiated, they can be essential to preventing chronic pain in the joints.
What Is the Prognosis for Joint Pain?
The outlook for joint pain depends on the cause. The medical evaluation and guided treatment plan is the key for optimal outcome.
Reviewed on 3/14/2019
Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
"Gout." March 2017. American College of Rheumatology. <https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Gout>.
"Joint Pain." U.S. National Library of Medicine
Neogi, Tuhina. "The Epidemiology and Impact of Pain in Osteoarthritis." ?Osteoarthritis Cartilage 21.9 Sept. 2013: 1145-1153.
United States. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. "Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis." Nov. 14, 2017. .