Causes of body joint pain

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Joint pain in the body is not always caused by arthritis. Common causes of joint pain are:

Osteoarthritis is wear and tear degenerative disease of cartilage, involving primarily weight-bearing joints. It is very common in adults over 45 years old.

Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions and pads bony prominences, allowing muscles and tendons to glide freely over the bone.

Tendonitis is inflammation of the ropes of tissue (tendons) that connect muscles to bones. Most tendonitis really isn't tendonitis. It is tendinosis. The distinction is that wear and tear of tendons, "osis" is much more common, particularly in people past the age of 30.

Common causes of joint symptoms:

1. excessive exertion or overuse, including strains or sprains
2. accidental injury
3. gout
4. osteoarthritis - degenerative joint disease
5. septic arthritis
6. tendinitis
7. bursitis
8. infectious diseases, including

• influenza
• measles
• rheumatic fever
• Epstein-Barr viral syndrome
• hepatitis
• mumps
• rubella
• varicella

9. chondromalacia patellae
10. osteomyelitis

Note: There are many other causes of joint pain. The causes of this symptom can include rarer diseases and medications. Furthermore, the causes may vary based on age and gender of the affected person.

A physician should be consulted if joint pains are also associated with the following:

• fever is not associated with flu symptoms.
• there is an involuntary weight loss of 10 or more pounds.
• the joint pain persists beyond 3 days.
• there is severe, unexplained joint pain especially if accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.

A diagnosis is critical to implementing proper treatment.

A medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.

Medical history questions documenting joint pain may include:

1. location

• Where is the pain?
• Which joint hurts?
• Is the pain on one side or both sides?

2. time pattern

• How long have you been having this pain?
• Have you had this pain before?
• Did this pain begin suddenly and severely or slowly and mildly?
• Does the pain recur?
• Has the pain become more severe?
• Is the pain constant or does it come and go?

3. aggravating factors

• What started your pain?
• Have you injured your joint?
• Have you had repeated injuries?
• Have you had an illness? Fever?
• What makes the pain worse?
• Does moving the joint make the pain worse?
• Does resting the joint make the pain worse?

4. relieving factors

• What reduces the pain?
• Does resting the joint reduce the pain?
• Does moving the joint reduce the pain?
• Are there positions that are comfortable?
• Does keeping the joint elevated help?
• Do medications reduce the pain?
• Does massage help?
• Does applying heat help?

5. other

• What other symptoms do you have in addition to the joint pain?
• Is the joint swollen or red or tender to touch?
• Is there any numbness?
• Can you bend and straighten the joint?
• Does the joint feel stiff?
• Does movement cause pain?
• Can you use the joint for normal activities?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

• Blood studies (such as CBC or blood differential)
• Imaging tests of affected areas such as magnetic resonance imaging or diagnostic ultrasound. Occasionally, biopsy of the affected area may need to be performed.

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