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Joint Pain: 5 Common Causes and Treatment

By Virtue Medical Group | Created on: September 7, 2022

What is Joint Pain?

Joint pain is pain in one or more of the joints that can be of many different types depending upon the underlying cause. It can involve the knees, hip joints, hands, wrists, shoulders, and other joints. Pain is an indication that there is underlying inflammation in the joint that can be due to various causes as discussed in the later sections.

In addition to pain, you may feel one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the joint
  • Limited movement at the joint
  • Redness of the joint
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Reduction in movement

What are 5 common causes of joint pain?

Causes of joint pain may be degenerative changes in the joints, autoimmune conditions, trauma or injury, metabolic disorders, or inflammation. These are the most common reasons for pain in the joints:

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA):
    Normally in joints, there is a layer of cartilage at the end of our bones so that when they meet together to form a joint, there is less friction between them and movement becomes smooth and easy. Osteoarthritis involves degeneration of those layers of cartilage, and ultimately, the bones lose the protective cushioning between them, making joints stiff and painful. So, OA is a disease of wear and tear that often develops with age.

  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA):
    Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In RA, one’s own immune system attacks the membrane lining of one’s own joints. The production of antibodies is triggered in the body that destroys the joint tissue, leading to chronic pain and swelling, and even deformation of the shape of joints that can be seen in fingers and wrists. It is quite common, more so in women than in men.

  3. Gout:
    Gout is a condition in which uric acid crystals deposit in the joint, causing swelling and inflammation along with severe pain. Gout usually manifests itself in the big toe of the foot, and usually affects one joint at a time. Patients can experience ‘flares’ or episodes where symptoms get worse.

  4. Bursitis and Tendonitis:
    Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that reduce the friction amongst joints, bones, tendons, and muscles so as to facilitate movement and reduce wear and tear. Bursitis means inflammation of the bursae. It can result from excessive use of the joints as well as putting excess pressure on the joints.

    Tendonitis involves inflammation of the tendons, i.e., bands of connective tissue that connect muscles to the bones. It can result from injury or overuse of the muscle.

  5. Injuries:
    Direct and indirect injuries or physical trauma to the joints can cause inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints. A bone injury, a sprain, or any sort of injury that implies insult of the joint tissue can cause pain in the joint that is usually acute and its resolution depends on the nature and severity of the injury. Mild insults would result in pain that would heal in a short time.
    Some other causes for joint pain may include:
      • Viral Infections (e.g. Hepatitis C. Virus)
      • Lupus
      • Osteoporosis
      • Fibromyalgia
      • Cancer

How can joint pain be treated?

In mild cases, these simple home remedies can be applied to mitigate the symptoms and bring symptomatic relief till the problem heals on its own:

  • Rest the injured area
  • Apply ice packs of heating pads, as convenient
  • Wrap the injured area in an elastic band
  • Avoid pressure on the affected joint
  • Elevate the joint above to avoid swelling

If the issue is not solely resolved with at-home methods, medications and other methods are available. Treatment options for joint pain can differ depending upon the cause of joint pain, however, there are some measures that are common to many of them.

  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are drugs that reduce inflammation and pain. They include drugs like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also be used for the purposes of painkilling.
  • DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) are used for rheumatoid arthritis and they include methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide and hydroxychloroquine.
  • Topical Treatment options are also available. Ointments and gels are available that can reduce swelling, pain and tenderness over the joints.
  • Steroids can be injected into the joint tissue to reduce inflammation. This decision is taken by doctors usually as the last resort treatment regimen before going for surgery.
  • Physiotherapy comes out to be an excellent option in a number of conditions involving joint diseases. It gradually helps healing and flexibility of the joint.
  • Exercise & Weight loss are always beneficial. Aerobic exercises and muscle strengthening have been shown to reduce joint pain and improve many other related parameters.

If the case is severe and is not treated by conventional methods, the doctor may proceed to surgical options.

When should I see a doctor?

It is time to talk to a primary care provider about your joint problem if the pain interferes with daily activities. Consult with your primary care physician about treatments, relieving pain and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Should the pain persist accompanied with fever or preventing you from walking normally, seek immediate help by calling the nearest urgent care, emergency room, or hospital. If you are looking for joint pain management services, visit our Joint Pain Management page to learn what we can help you with.


Disclaimer: The following article/blogpost contains information about medical related condition. The material contained on these pages are not intended to replace professional medical advice of your health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice. This article is for educational purposes and services only.

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Beasley, J. (2012). Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Conservative Therapeutic Management. Journal of Hand Therapy, 25(2), 163–172.

El-saidy, T. M., El-Nagar, S. A., & Abd Elsalam, E. A. E. A. (2015). Effect of Self-Management and Home Remedy on Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis among Elderly Clients. Zagazig Nursing Journal, 11(2), 51-65.

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Article category: Joint pain, joint pain treatment, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, bursitis & tendonitis, injuries.

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