What’s Causing Your Joint Pain?

The parts of your body where your bones meet form your joints. These joints allow each part of your body to move and function properly. For example, your hips, shoulders, and wrists are all joints.

At some point, we all experience joint pain. Joint pain may also be described as any discomfort in the joints or achy, sore feelings in the joints. Typically, joint pain is resolved in the home and doesn’t require you to visit a hospital.

In the later years of life, many people believe arthritis is the only cause of joint pain. However, there are a large amounts of other causes of joint pain.

A muscle sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament. A ligament is the tissue that connects your bones at the joints. Falls, awkward twists, or sometimes a bump or hit in the right direction can cause a sprain. The most common type of muscle sprain is a sprained ankle because it is quite easy to twist your ankle the wrong direction while walking, running, or playing.

If you have a muscle sprain, it can easily cause joint pain because the ligament surrounds your joint. Sprains can be spotted by pain and swelling in a joint area. Most sprains can be easily treated at home by resting, treating the area with ice, using compression wraps, and elevating the area. More serious sprains should be seen by a doctor to ensure there is no bone fracture or extended damage to the ligament. If there is a fracture or severe damage, a doctor may put a cast on the are for rehabilitation.

A muscle strain is similar to a sprain, but the difference is that a strain is a stretch or tear of the actual muscle itself, not a ligament. A tendon is similar to a ligament, but a tendon connects a muscle to a bone. Strains may be caused by twisting the wrong way or if you pull a muscle or a tendon.

The symptoms of strains are very similar to those of sprains. You may experience mild to severe pain as well as swelling at the site of the strain. You may also experience bruising near the site of a strain.

The treatments for strains are also similar to those of sprains. If you have a strained muscle or tendon, you should get plenty of rest, use ice at the site of the strain, use compression wraps, and elevate the area. As with sprains, more severe strains should be looked at by a doctor. A doctor may recommend a cast or physical therapy as rehabilitation for a muscle or tendon strain if it is severe enough.

Tendons are the tissues that connect muscles to your bones. When your muscles contract and relax, tendons are what cause your bones to move along with the rest of your body. When a tendon becomes severely inflamed or swollen, it is called tendinitis.

Tendinitis is usually caused when you have repeated injuries to the same area of your body. Two of the most common areas affected by tendinitis are the wrists and ankles because these joints are quite easy to injure.

The symptoms of tendinitis are pain and soreness at the site of a joint. Doctors are able to diagnose tendinitis by reviewing your medical history, giving you a physical examination, and taking X-rays or other imaging tests of the joint.

When treating tendinitis, the first approach is to reduce the swelling at the site of the injury and reduce the pain. The treatment for tendinitis usually begins with lots of rest, icing the injury if it is recent, using compression wraps, and elevating the area. If the injury is severe enough, a doctor may decide that physical therapy, steroid injections, or surgery are also necessary.

Some infections like mumps, influenza, and hepatitis can cause joint pain. When a joint becomes affected by a severe infection, it is often called a bacterial joint infection. When bacteria finds its way into one of your joints, it causes the tissue and cartilage within the joint to deteriorate and can even damage your bones.

Bacterial joint infections can cause severe pain, swelling, redness, and loss of movement at the site of infection. if you are able to get a bacterial infection treated early on, all symptoms and issues of the infection are often reversible and you should make a full recovery. However, if medical treatment is delayed or begun too late, you risk permanent injury or could even be susceptible to septic shock.

Bacterial joint infections enter the body through places like your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, or skin. There are several different strains of bacteria that may cause joint infections. These types of infections commonly infect those who are quite young or quite old, but anyone may be affected by a bacterial joint infection no matter what their age.

There are several risk factors that contribute to the contraction of a bacterial infection in a joint. Some of these risk factors are joint surgery or artificial joint implants, lupus, gout, drug injections, weak immune systems, other bacterial infections within the body, and smoking.

The symptoms of a bacterial joint infection are a heightened body temperature, pain at the joint site, swelling, irritation, skin that is warm to the touch, and fatigue. The most commonly affected joints are the hips, shoulders, arms, legs, and knees. It is uncommon to experience these infections in the head, back, or neck.

Doctors diagnose a bacterial joint infection by using blood tests, X-rays, and samples of joint fluid. These tests help doctors determine the type of infection and the severity of the damage. After diagnosis, doctors normally prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that may damage several parts of the body like your skin, joints, or organs. When you have lupus, your immune system stops working and your body loses its ability to fight off diseases, viruses, and infections.

Lupus can cause your muscles and joints to ache and swell. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, “more than half of the people who develop lupus mention joint pain as their first symptom.”

People who suffer from lupus experience flares where the disease acts up and causes a rush of symptoms all at once for an extended period of time. During these flares, joint pain may be at its worst.

Some of the other symptoms of lupus include extreme tiredness, headaches, fever, anemia, chest pain, facial rash, sun sensitivity, hair loss, abnormal blood clotting, and mouth or nose ulcers. In many cases, the symptoms of lupus are quite similar to the symptoms of other diseases.

When people take medication, they often are lucky enough not to encounter too many of the side effects the medication may warn about. However, many people also don’t realize that muscle and joint pain may be caused by many common medicines.

Some types of medication that may cause muscle and joint pain are drugs prescribed for cholesterol, anxiety and depression, allergies, attention deficit disorders, constipation, migraine and headaches, and pain.

If you experience joint pain caused by your medication, you may want to talk to your doctor about other available medications or seek to eliminate the need for the medication with healthy lifestyle changes.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease that is also classified as an autoimmune disease. It causes hardening of the skin, which is the most visible symptom of the disease. Scleroderma affects each person differently, and some people experience symptoms in completely different parts of their bodies. One of the common areas scleroderma affects people is in their joints and muscles.

Because scleroderma is also an autoimmune disease that suppresses the immune system, scleroderma can cause muscle weakness. Scleroderma can weaken muscles further or cause deterioration that needs to be monitor by a doctor.

Other symptoms of scleroderma include numbness or discoloration of fingers and toes in cold temperatures, acid reflux, difficulty absorbing nutrients through digestion, and failure of the heart, lungs, or kidneys.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is a disorder that causes severe tiredness and exhaustion that is not explicable by other medical conditions. The cause of CFS is unknown but may be due to viral infections or undiagnosed psychological issues. Because the cause of CFS is unknown, there is no simple test to confirm a CFS diagnosis. Doctors may need to perform a number of tests to rule out other conditions before confirming a CFS diagnosis. The treatment for CFS focuses on relief of the symptoms.

CFS affects several areas of the body. In addition to causing joint pain, CFS may cause memory loss or loss of concentration, swollen lymph nodes, headaches or migraines, difficulty sleeping, and severe exhaustion.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder with symptoms that include severe, abundant, and unexplained pain in muscles and joints. If you have fibromyalgia, you may have tender points on your body that are susceptible to extreme pain even under light pressure. When a person experiences pain in at least 11 of the 18 known trigger points for fibromyalgia, they may be diagnosed with the disorder.

Some of the common trigger points for fibromyalgia pain are the back of the head, tops of shoulders, upper chest, hips, knees, and elbows. The treatment for the disorder focuses on easing the symptoms and reducing pain. It is often treated by pain medication, muscle relaxers, physical therapy, massage, and exercise.

Any one or any number of these conditions may be the cause of your joint pain. Arthritis may be a common cause of muscle and joint pain, but it is not the only factor to consider. There are many, many more diseases, disorders, injuries, and conditions that may be the cause of your pain.


HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

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Written by HealthStatus
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our health risk assessment, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

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