Joint pain – causes and treatment

Last modified: September 11, 2019

It is very common to suffer from joint pain, whether for long or short periods. Depending on how intense the pain is, where it is located, and how long it continues for, there can be a variety of underlying causes for it. Some of the common diagnoses given for joint pain are osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. Apart from these, joint pain can also be caused by other types of inflammatory joint conditions and various injuries. Precisely because there are so many diagnoses, it is always a good idea to speak to a physiotherapist or doctor.

Joint pain during exertion

There are several reasons why you might experience pain in your knees or hips during exertion, such as when walking or running. For instance, if the pain occurs on the outside of the hip, hip bursitis is a conceivable diagnosis, which means inflammation of the fluid-filled sac in your hip. This mainly causes pain in the hip during and after exercise, such as running. Hip osteoarthritis, or cox osteoarthritis, to give it its Latin name, is another possible diagnosis. This very often starts with stiffness, but progresses over time to pain during exertion.

More information about hip pain can be found here.

If you are experiencing pain in your knee instead, this may be, for instance, runner’s knee. In this case, the pain is felt on the outside of the knee joint and it typically increases, the longer you run. This pain also usually disappears with rest. Another related diagnosis is jumper’s knee. This is caused by landing on or lifting your knee the wrong way. In this case, the pain is located more at the front below the knee. Both these conditions are treated using rehabilitation exercises. Read more here.

Knee joint osteoarthritis is another possible cause of pain in the knee joint and typically involves pain inside the knee joint during exertion and, generally, stiffness after sitting. A crunching sound can also sometimes be heard from the joint.

You can also experience pain in other joints during exertion, such as in your feet. This may also be down to osteoarthritis. But it may also be caused by problems such as overexertion or a stress fracture.

Pain in the finger joints and hands

Osteoarthritis can affect every joint in the body. As a result, osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the hands, fingers or wrists. Above all, the base of the thumb is especially vulnerable. A typical feature of this condition is a reduction in the ability to move the thumb. You can also feel that the strength in your hand is disappearing. This can be treated with special exercises. Sometimes, a hand/wrist support can be worn, which is known as an orthotic.

Pain in the finger joints can also be down to rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has some features in common with osteoarthritis. Both are chronic diseases and both can affect the hands. But there are also important differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis very often starts in minor joints (such as the hands or feet) and typically presents with swollen joints. This condition can also affect other organs, such as blood vessels or pleurae (membrane surrounding the lungs). Unlike osteoarthritis, this is an autoimmune disease.

Sudden joint pain

Sudden joint pain can be caused by gout or pseudogout, but it can also be caused by an infection in the joint, known as septic arthritis. Gout and pseudogout are two extremely similar diagnoses, presenting similar symptoms. The symptoms of gout are sudden pain in the joints, combined with swelling and heat. It is also often the case that you can see the affected joint turning extremely red. It is also common for it to be very painful to touch, even slightly. Fever can be another symptom. This condition often starts at night and will be cured in a couple of weeks. Gout very often affects the big toe, but can also affect ankles, wrists, heels, and elbows. Pseudogout more often affects the knee joint and produces the same symptoms, but to a milder degree. Pseudogout often occurs after an infection or overexertion.

Septic arthritis is an infection in the joint caused by bacteria. It is a serious condition requiring treatment with antibiotics. The symptoms are similar but they quickly become serious.

Infection-related joint pain

Sometimes joint pain isn’t the primary symptom. It is also common to experience joint pain with certain infections, such as when you have a cold or fever. In this case, you usually feel generalized joint pain, which means that you experience pain in many joints at the same time. This usually disappears at the same time when the infection is cured. But, occasionally, it can take several months to be completely free of this type of joint pain.

Joint pain with other symptoms

Several other conditions can also cause joint pain, even if this is not the first or only symptom. Diabetes, psoriasis, depression, and various intestinal disorders are examples of such conditions.

There is also a chronic condition which is quite often confused with rheumatoid arthritis: SLE (known as lupus). This condition can present in several ways and produce varying symptoms, depending on the person affected by it. Another similar diagnosis is systemic sclerosis, which affects the connective tissue. However, these conditions are very uncommon and cause not only joint pain, but also problems in various organs. If the only symptom you experience is joint pain, it is therefore not likely to be caused by any of these conditions.

Read more about osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.