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Joint Pain: Definition, symptoms, causes & treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Millions of individuals worldwide suffer from varied degrees of Joint Pain (JP). However, the consequences of this common illness may vary from person to person. JP is a relatively common health condition that can affect anyone. It can occur either due to a physical injury, an internal illness, or just an age-related problem. Here is a list of some essential aspects to consider while understanding Joint Pain.




What is Joint Pain?

Joint Pain is defined as pain and inflammation in the joints. It can be caused by regular wear and tear of bones, cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. It can also be an indication of an infection or an underlying illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

JP is usually prevalent in the hands, spine, hips, knees, or feet. Pain may be persistent or erratic. Furthermore, the joint may seem tight in the morning but get released and feel better with movement and exercise. However, excessive exercise, on the other hand, may aggravate the pain.

JP can impair the function of your joints and hinder your ability to do basic chores. It may affect your overall well-being. It is more common among the following people.

  • Having previous joint injuries

  • Persistent overuse of muscles

  • Having a chronic medical condition such as arthritis

  • Suffering from anxiety, stress, or depression

  • Having obesity

  • Having low immunity

However, age is another important factor that leads to stiff and painful joints. It is more prevalent in middle-aged or older individuals due to the wear and tear of joints.

What causes Joint Pain?

Generally, Joint Pain occurs due to an injury, illness, infection, or inflammation. Some of the most prevalent causes of JP are discussed below. 

Arthritis is the leading cause of Joint Pain. The following are some of the different forms of arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is caused by loss of cartilage in the joints. It occurs as the cartilage, the protective cushion between the bones, wears down over time. Calcification of the cartilage surrounding the joints makes the cartilage thin before damaging it. The joints become sore and stiff. Usually, older individuals are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune reaction to a trigger. The immune system of your body attacks the cartilage lining of the joints. As a result, it causes pain, tenderness, and fluid build-up in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes deformation and weakening of the joints over time. It usually affects the wrists and the fingers.

  • Gout: It occurs due to uric acid crystallisation in the body. The crystals of uric acid get collected in the joints causing inflammation and acute pain. The bigger toe is usually affected by gout.

  • Septic arthritis: Septic arthritis is a severe joint infection caused by bacteria that migrate through your bloodstream from another part of your body. Septic arthritis can also arise when an animal bite or trauma directly penetrates germs into the synovial fluid of your joints, which damages the cartilage, resulting in arthritis. Septic arthritis causes severe pain and inflammation in the joints.

Other causes of JP may include bursitis, lupus, chondromalacia of the kneecap, overusing joints, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, and cancer.

Symptoms of Joint Pain

Symptoms of Joint Pain may include the following.

  • Inflammation of the joint

  • Stiffness of the joint

  • Swelling in the joint

  • Limited and painful movement

  • Difficulty bending

  • Joint weakness and numbness

  • Fatigue

Diagnosing Joint Pain

Your doctor will most likely evaluate your symptoms and medical history, followed by a physical examination. As part of a routine analysis, your doctor will assess your joints and evaluate your range of motion.

You may be advised to get the following laboratory tests done, which will help your doctor to diagnose the problem. The tests may include the following.

  • Rheumatoid factor

  • ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)

  • Uric acid

  • C-reactive protein

  • Antinuclear antibodies

  • X-ray

  • CT and MRI scans

How is Joint Pain treated?

Although there is no cure for Joint Pain, you can manage it, which helps relieve your discomfort. Sometimes pain can be relieved by taking over-the-counter medicines or performing basic daily workouts.

However, if the pain is caused by an underlying condition, it may necessitate the use of prescribed medication or, in some cases, surgery. However, the following are some of the best treatment options you can adopt to manage your JP.

1. At-home treatments

Simple at-home therapies, such as applying an ice pack or a heating pad to the painful area for a short period of time multiple times a day, may be recommended. Soaking the affected area with warm water may also provide relief.

2. Regular exercise

You can boost your energy and increase strength with exercise. Swimming, walking, or other forms of moderate aerobic exercise may help. If you do rigorous workouts or sports activities, then you need to reduce the intensity or develop a low-impact training plan. You can do gentle stretching exercises instead. But before starting or continuing any workout regimen, consult with your doctor.

3. Weight loss

Losing weight may reduce strain on your joints. Weight reduction has been shown to improve joint health in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, losing weight may even reduce the need for medication.

4. Medications

Your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to help alleviate your Joint Pain related to arthritis.

If you encounter JP due to an infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics or antivirals to manage the symptoms. However, if you have kidney or liver disease or stomach ulcers, you must reveal this to your doctor before starting any of the above medications.

5. Topical treatments

Pain relief gels or ointments may be applied to the skin over the affected areas to help relieve pain. These topical creams are usually available over the counter, but some of them require a doctor’s prescription.

If these treatments don't seem to help, your doctor may suggest the following.

6. Supportive aids

A brace, cane, or orthotic device in the shoe can help support the joint and allow easier movement. Your doctor or a physical therapist can advise you on the best option(s).

7. Physiotherapy

Physical therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation while gradually increasing flexibility.

8. Antidepressants

If your Joint Pain keeps you up at night, it might be time to talk to your doctor about antidepressants. According to research, antidepressants can improve JP and sleep quality.

9. Surgery

If your Joint Pain is severe and does not improve with medications, physical therapy, or any other treatments, surgery may be a possibility. Your doctor would be the best person to recommend whether surgery is required. Following are the several surgical preferences available.

Arthroscopy: It is a treatment in which two or three small incisions are made in the skin above the joint. 

Joint replacement surgery: It is recommended only when all other treatments have failed to relieve pain and the cartilage that protects both ends of the bones has deteriorated. Joint replacement can be done for knee, shoulder, or hip joints.

A surgeon removes the affected parts of the patient's bone joints and replaces them with a metal or plastic prosthetic joint. This procedure has had excellent outcomes, and a majority of patients experience long-term pain relief post-surgery.

When to see a doctor?

If pain is interfering with your routine activities or is accompanied by a fever or unexplained weight loss, you must consult your doctor without much delay. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Joint Pain.


What is Joint Pain?

Joint Pain can be defined as pain and inflammation in the joints. It may be caused by regular wear and tear of the bones, cartilage, ligaments, or tendons. JP can be an indication of an infection or an underlying illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes Joint Pain?

Usually, Joint Pain occurs due to an injury, illness, infection, or inflammation. Moreover, it might be caused by medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and septic arthritis. Other causes of Joint Pain may include bursitis, lupus, chondromalacia of the kneecap, overusing joints, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, and cancer.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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