• Eric Carlsen, DC

What to Know About Joint Pain


5 Circles showing joint pain in hands, shoulder, hips, knees and feet

Overview Joints are the parts of your body where your bones meet. Joints allow the bones of your skeleton to move. Joints include shoulders, hips, elbows, knees.


Joint pain refers to discomfort, aches, and soreness in any of the body’s joints. Joint pain is a common complaint. It doesn’t typically require a hospital visit. Sometimes, joint pain is the result of an illness or injury. Arthritis is also a common cause of joint pain. However, it can also be due to other conditions or factors.


What causes joint pain? Arthritis One of the most common causes of joint pain is arthritis. The two main forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

According to the American College of Rheumatology, OA is most common in adults over age 40. It progresses slowly and tends to affect commonly used joints like the:

  • wrists

  • hands

  • hips

  • knees

Joint pain due to OA results from a breakdown of the cartilage that serves as a cushion and shock absorber for the joints.

The second form of arthritis is RA. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA affects about 1.5 million Americans. It more commonly affects women than men. It can deform and debilitate the joints over time. RA causes pain, inflammation, and fluid buildup in the joints as the body’s immune system attacks the membrane that lines the joints.

Other causes Joint pain can be caused by:

  • bursitis, or inflammation of the cushioning pads around joints

  • lupus

  • gout

  • certain infectious diseases, such as mumps, influenza, and hepatitis

  • chondromalacia of the patella, or a breakdown of the cartilage in the kneecap

  • an injury

  • tendinitis, or inflammation of the tendon

  • an infection of the bone or joint

  • overuse of a joint

  • cancer

  • fibromyalgia

  • osteoporosis

  • sarcoidosis

  • rickets

What are the symptoms of joint pain? In some cases, your joint pain will require you to see a doctor. You should make an appointment if you don’t know the cause of your joint pain and are experiencing other unexplained symptoms.


You should also see a doctor if:

  • The area around the joint is swollen, red, tender, or warm to the touch.

  • The pain persists for three days or more.

  • You have a fever but no other signs of the flu.

Go to the emergency room if any of the following occurs:

  • You’ve experienced a serious injury.

  • The joint appears deformed.

  • Swelling of the joint occurs suddenly.

  • The joint is completely immobile.

  • You have severe joint pain.


What is the outlook for people with joint pain? Joint pain is often a result of the damage that occurs through normal wear and tear. However, it can also be a sign of an infection or potentially debilitating RA. You should see your doctor if you have any unexplained joint pain, especially if it doesn’t go away on its own after a few days. Early detection and diagnosis can allow for effective treatment of the underlying cause of your discomfort.

Excerpts from: Healthline

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