Health Information

Joint pain

Joint pain


Stiffness in a joint; Pain - joints; Arthralgia

Joint pain can affect one or more joints.

See also:

  • Arthritis (inflammation of joints)
  • Bursitis
  • Muscle pain

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    Joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries or conditions. No matter what causes it, joint pain can be very bothersome. Some things that can cause joint pain are:

    • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
    • Bursitis
    • Chondromalacia patellae
    • Gout (especially found in the big toe)
    • Infections caused by a virus, including
      • Epstein-Barr viral syndrome
      • Hepatitis
      • Influenza (flu)
      • Lyme disease
      • Measles (rubeola)
      • Mumps
      • Parvovirus
      • Rheumatic fever
      • Rubella (German measles)
      • Varicella (chickenpox)
    • Injury, such as a fracture
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
    • Septic arthritis (joint infection)
    • Tendinitis
    • Unusual exertion or overuse, including strains or sprains
  • Home Care

    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.

    Aceteminophen (Tylenol) may help the soreness feel better. Anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve pain and swelling. Talk to 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 doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

    • 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
    • C-reactive protein
    • Joint x-ray
    • Sedimentation rate
    • 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.

Related Information

  ArthritisMuscle achesBursitisRheumatoid arthrit...Osteoarthritis     OsteoarthritisRheumatoid arthrit...


Arend WP, Lawry GV. Approach to the patient with rheumatic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 264.


Review Date: 5/28/2012  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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