Read below about joint pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your joint pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Joint Pain Symptoms

Some say youth is wasted on the young. If you're currently suffering from joint pain symptoms, you probably agree. Those with youthful joints that don't ache or slow them down don't appreciate how lucky they are. If you're struggling to complete tasks that were once simple because of pain in your knees, ankles, wrists, fingers, or elbows, joint pain could be to blame.

Do you identify with any of these common joint pain symptoms?

  • Pain, swelling, or stiffness
  • Locked-up joints
  • Difficulty bending
  • Trouble with activities that were once easy
  • Discomfort that causes you concern

Joint pain symptoms can start in any part of a joint, such as the cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, or muscles. The discomfort can be mild and only appear during strenuous activity or it can be classified as severe [1,2]. If this is the case, you might experience joint pain symptoms even when not moving, and the smallest actions can be nearly impossible to complete.

Joint Pain Causes Overview

Joint pain symptoms are associated with a multitude of conditions.

  • Arthritis: Joint pain is the main symptom of arthritis, a condition that causes stiffness and pain throughout the joints. There are different variations of arthritis which affect different parts of the body.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an inflammatory condition that requires the care of a specialist, called a rheumatologist to manage.
  • Lyme Disease: This tick-borne illness can cause pain and swelling in the knees or other joints. Antibiotic therapy often improves this [3].
  • Viral infections: Mononucleosis and other viral infections can cause many side effects, including joint pain.
  • Gout: This is a disorder where uric acid crystals deposit in the joints – often the big toe – and create redness, warmth and swelling.
  • Septic arthritis: This is an infection in a joint and is an emergency that needs prompt therapy.
  • Fibromyalgia: The bad news is that fibromyalgia can cause joint and muscle pain. The good news is that it won't cause long-term or permanent damage to joints like arthritis can.
  • Menopause: Joint pain is common in menopausal women. The joints can begin to ache, stiffen up, or swell due to hormonal imbalances.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Joint Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced joint pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Ankle Arthritis

    Arthritis of the ankle is a degenerative joint disorder occurring in the ankle. It presents with joint pain and stiffness that is typically worse with activity.

    Arthritis is considered irreversible, but symptoms can be effectively managed with treatment. Newer, more effective treatment options have become available in recent years.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen ankle, swollen foot, joint stiffness, pain in one ankle, ankle stiffness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Mild / Moderate Hip Arthritis

    Arthritis of the hip is inflammation of one or more of the joints in the hip. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Hip arthritis can make it hard to do many everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. It is a major cause of lost work time and a serious disability for many people.

    Varies with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    hip pain, difficulty walking, pain in one hip, limping, groin pain
    Symptoms that always occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis:
    hip pain
    Symptoms that never occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis:
    severe hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Knee Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, but it is particularly common in the knee.

    Knee arthritis is a chronic problem once it develops.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in both knees, knee stiffness, knee instability, swollen knee, morning joint stiffness
    Symptoms that always occur with knee arthritis:
    pain in both knees
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Lower Back Arthritis

    Osteoarthritis, most often simply called arthritis, is a disease of cartilage. In joints, where bones touch and move against one another, cartilage helps provide lubrication for smooth movement, and acts as a shock absorber. Cartilage is also present in between vertebrae, which are the bones comprising the spine. Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as degenerative joint disease, happens when the cartilage between vertebrae dries out and shrinks. The vertebrae are thus not as able to move smoothly against one another. The ability to walk and perform normal daily activities can be impaired due to inflammation and pain in the lower back.

    Currently, there is no widely accepted cure for osteoarthritis, and medical care is centered on management of symptoms. General pain killers are likely to reduce pain symptoms in the short term (hours up to a day). Corticosteroid injections can reduce pain symptoms for months.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, spontaneous back pain, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, back pain from overuse
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Shoulder Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, including the shoulder joint.

    Shoulder arthritis is a chronic problem once it develops.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, swollen shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with shoulder arthritis:
    spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Joint Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having joint pain.

    Joint Pain Quiz
  6. 6.Lyme Disease

    Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of a tick, which needs to latch on for a few days to transmit the bacteria. This infection can affect the skin, but more dangerously, the nervous system.

    If treated properly, people are typically cured but may have symptoms for a few months even without signs of an actual infection.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, irritability, muscle aches, loss of appetite
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Lupus

    Lupus is a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage joints, skin, blood vessels and organs.

    Lupus is a chronic condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, anxiety, depressed mood, joint pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Joint Pain Treatments and Relief

Even if your joint pain is manageable with rest or over-the-counter medication, there might be another way to treat or possibly cure the condition.

The following joint pain symptoms necessitate a trip to the doctor's office for further evaluation.

  • Joint pain symptoms that last for three consecutive days or more
  • Extreme difficulty walking or moving around
  • Extreme swelling, heat, or redness on the skin above the joint

Here are a few joint pain treatments you can try today.

  • Pain Medication: Both over-the-counter and prescribed pain medication can help alleviate some of the discomfort from joint pain. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are some of the best options.
  • Heat and Cold Treatments: Use a heat pack on the affected area for 20 minutes. Immediately follow with a cold pack for an additional 20 minutes. Do this every day for mild joint pain symptoms.
  • Exercise: Though it may seem counterproductive, moving painful joints can help alleviate discomfort. Just make sure you're doing low impact exercises, like swimming.
  • Lose Weight: If you're considered overweight, shedding a few excess pounds can make a difference in your joint pain.

FAQs About Joint Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about joint pain.

Can joint pain be caused by vitamin deficiency?

Yes, joint pain can be caused by vitamin D deficiency [4]. Prolonged vitamin C deficiency can also soften bones and cause limited joint pain. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium you absorb and excrete through your urine. If you are not either making (via exposure to sunlight) or consuming enough vitamin D in your diet (in fortified foods like cereals and milk), then your body may not keep calcium as well as it normally would and you may have weakened bones and joint pain.

What diseases causes joint pain?

Many diseases cause joint pain. The most common causes of joint pain are arthritis, trauma, and inflammation either because of an infection or because of a hyperactive immune system. The most dangerous causes include different types of cancer and insufficient thyroid hormone.

What causes inflammation in joints?

Inflammation in joints can be caused by many things. If pathogens, viral particles, or foreign particles (dirt, glass) enter a joint space, they can cause inflammation. Additionally, sometimes the body reacts to its own chemicals (autoimmune illnesses) causing inflammation within joint spaces. Anti-inflammatory agents, antimicrobial agents to treat viruses or pathogens, and immunomodulators drugs (biologics) can be used to treat these problems respectively.

What causes severe joint pain?

Severe joint pain can be caused by inflammation that causes swelling within the joint and stretching of the joint capsule, destruction of the end of the bone or cartilage, and abrasion between the ends of the bone [5].

Is moderate joint pain an early sign of arthritis?

Moderate joint pain can be a sign of arthritis. Arthritis can be caused by different processes in the body. Early arthritis can feel like joint pain with certain movements. Usually these movements are predictable and the pain is elicited commonly by these movements. High impact activities like jumping or running can also cause pain. Moderate arthritis involves a more constant pain sensation that begins to limit daily activities and cause stiffness at times. Severe arthritis often involves dull/aching pain and episodes of intense fatiguing pain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Joint Pain

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our joint pain symptom checker to find out more.

Joint Pain Quiz

Joint Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced joint pain have also experienced:

    • 9% Muscle Aches
    • 8% Fatigue
    • 4% Headache
  • People who have experienced joint pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 48% Over a Month
    • 20% Less Than a Week
    • 16% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced joint pain were most often matched with:

    • 42% Mild / Moderate Hip Arthritis
    • 42% Knee Arthritis
    • 14% Ankle Arthritis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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References

  1. Starkebaum GA. Joint pain. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated December 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Joint pain. NHS. Updated May 10, 2016. NHS Link.
  3. Sufka P. Lyme disease. American College of Rheumatology. Updated March 2017. Rheumatology Link.
  4. Johnson LE. Vitamin D. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated September 2018. Merck Manual Consumer Version Link.
  5. Living with severe joint pain. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated March 7, 2017. CDC Link.