Joint pain

Joint pain

Joint pain is pain and discomfort in the joints, which are the tissues that connect and aid movement between two bones. Joint pain can be a dull, sharp, stiff or burning pain in the joint, ranging from mild to severe in intensity.

Joint pain or arthralgia is a symptom of a medical condition, such as arthritis ( arthritis ) and inflammation of the bearing joints ( bursitis ). Joint pain can be mild to severe, and can be brief (acute) or prolonged (chronic).

Causes of Joint Pain

Joint pain can occur due to a variety of conditions, ranging from injury or inflammation to the joints, bursa, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and the bones around the joints. In older people, joint pain is often caused by osteoarthritis . This disease usually causes pain in more than one joint.

If divided based on the location and number of painful joints, the causes of joint pain can be divided into several types, namely:

Joint pain in one joint

One of the joints most often experiencing this type of pain is the knee joint. There are several types of causes of pain in one joint, namely:

  • Gout  (gout and pseudogout), which usually causes pain in the thumb or knee joints only
  • Traumatic synovitis or inflammation of the lining of the joints and tendons, which occurs in only one joint
  • Chondromalacia patellae or damage to the cartilage behind the kneecap, which can cause pain in the knee joint
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease is a lump of bone just below the kneecap, which can cause pain in the knee joint
  • Haemarthrosis or bleeding into the joint space due to a cracked kneecap or torn ligaments, which can cause pain in the knee joint

Although rare, pain in one joint can also be caused by  hemophilia , infection, septic arthritis , dislocated joints, avascular necrosis , and injuries such as fractures or  fractures .

Joint pain in multiple joints

Pain and discomfort can also occur in more than one joint. Below are some conditions that can cause pain in several joints:

  • Psoriasis ( psoriatic arthritis )
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Inflammation of the connective tissue, such as from  scleroderma  or lupus
  • Some rare types of arthritis, such as  reactive arthritis , juvenile arthritis , and  ankylosing spondylitis
  • Diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels, eg Henoch-Schonlein purpura  or Behcet's syndrome
  • Hypertrophic  pulmonary osteoarthropathy
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Side effects of certain drugs, such as  isoniazid , hydralazine, and corticosteroids
  • Causes of joint pain originating from other tissues around the joints

Several disorders or diseases of other tissues around the joints can also cause joint pain, including:

  • Bursitis, which is inflammation of the discs (bursa)
  • Fibromyalgia , which is a disorder of the muscles and connective tissue
  • Polymyalgia rheumatism , namely inflammation of more than one muscle and joint for which the exact cause is not known
  • Tendinitis , which is inflammation of the connective tissue that connects bones to muscles (tendons)

Joint pain risk factors

Anyone can experience joint pain. However, someone with the following factors is more at risk of experiencing joint pain:

  • Over 60 years old
  • Have had a joint injury
  • Have a family member who suffers from joint pain
  • Have deformities or defects in bones, joints, or cartilage from birth
  • Has a weak immune system
  • Have kidney or liver disease
  • Suffering  from obesity  or metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and hemochromatosis
  • Have skin that is easily injured, for example due to  psoriasis  or  eczema
  • Suffer from depression, anxiety, or stress
  • Frequently doing activities that involve repetitive motion and stress on the joints, such as painting, playing a musical instrument, or gardening

Joint Pain Symptoms

Joint pain is characterized by discomfort or pain in the joints. This condition is usually a symptom of a certain disease so it is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Joints look red, swollen, and painful to the touch
  • Joints feel warm and stiff
  • Reduced or limited joint movement
  • Joints are difficult to move, for example limping when walking due to pain in the knee joint

When to see a doctor

Check with  your doctor  if you experience the above symptoms, especially if the pain doesn't improve after 2 weeks of self-care. Immediately go to the emergency room if you experience joint pain accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Joints deform
  • Joints swell rapidly
  • The joint and the area around it cannot be moved
  • Joint pain feels worse and unbearable
  • Sweating profusely at night
  • Weight loss drastically

Diagnosis of Joint Pain

To find out the cause of joint pain, the doctor will ask about pain complaints experienced by the patient, including the severity of pain felt using a pain scale . The doctor will also ask about a history of certain injuries or illnesses, and medications that are being consumed by the patient.

After that, the doctor will do an examination to see whether or not there are limitations to movement, swelling, and discoloration of the painful joints.

Furthermore, to ascertain the cause of joint pain, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations which include:

  • Blood test , to find out whether joint pain is caused by certain autoimmune disease disorders
  • Joint fluid analysis (arthrocentesis) , to examine the synovial fluid and detect inflammation
  • X-rays , to see damage to bones and cartilage, and see bone spurs
  • Scan with a CT scan , MRI, or ultrasound, to see the condition of the bones and soft tissues, including the tendons, bursa, or ligaments

Joint Pain Treatment

Treatment for joint pain aims to relieve pain and inflammation, improve joint function, and treat underlying diseases and conditions. The following are treatment methods that can be done:

Independent handling

If the symptoms of joint pain are still relatively mild, sufferers can do independent therapy at home by:

  • Get enough rest
  • Compress the swollen joint with an ice pack for 15 minutes several times a day
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers at pharmacies, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Soaking painful joints in warm water or a warm bath
  • Resting sore joints
  • Lose weight  if you are  obese


Medicines prescribed by the doctor will be adjusted to the cause of joint pain. Some types of drugs that are generally given by doctors are:

  • Capsaicin  or menthol in the form of creams, ointments, gels, patches, or balms that are applied to painful joints
  • Duloxetine
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs ( DMARD ) such as methotrexate and  sulfasalazine
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ), such as diclofenac, or etodolac , or nabumetone
  • Injectable corticosteroids
  • Hyaluronic acid injectable drug 
  • Antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection

Therapy and use of assistive devices

Various types of therapy that can be done to treat joint pain are:

  • Physiotherapy , to increase strength, flexibility, and stamina
  • Occupational therapy, to help patients carry out daily activities
  • Psychotherapy , to increase the enthusiasm of patients to overcome their illness
  • Other therapies based on the condition suffered, such as radiotherapy to treat cancer

If needed, sufferers of joint pain can use walkers, supports, or canes to reduce pain and help joint movement.


If the above treatments cannot relieve the patient's symptoms, the doctor may suggest surgery, depending on the cause of the joint pain. Several types of surgery that can be performed to treat joint pain are:

  • Joint repair surgery, to repair the joint surface and set the joint into the correct position
  • Joint replacement surgery, to replace damaged joints with artificial ones
  • Joint fusion surgery (arthrodesis), to bring together the two bones connected by the damaged joint
  • Joint fluid removal or aspiration surgery, to remove excess fluid in the joint
  • Surgery to treat diseases that cause joint pain, for example, surgical removal of cancerous tissue

Joint Pain Complications

Joint pain carries the risk of serious complications if the underlying condition or disease is not treated, or if joint pain is not treated properly. Some of these complications are:

  • Barriers in carrying out daily activities
  • Impaired comfort due to severe pain
  • Abnormalities in the shape or size of the joint
  • Severe infection
  • Amputation risk

Joint Pain Prevention

Joint pain can be prevented by avoiding conditions that can cause joint pain. Some preventive steps that can be taken are:

  • Reducing activities that can cause joint pain
  • Rest often when doing movements or activities that put repeated pressure on the joints
  • Maintain  ideal body weight
  • Use personal protective equipment when engaging in activities that are prone to injury
  • Exercise regularly, especially sports for joint pain and sports that are safe for the knees
  • Undergo regular check-ups and treatment if you have a disease that increases your risk of developing joint pain, such as osteoarthritis,  rheumatoid arthritis , or gout
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