Health Information Library

All the content of the library is provided from Mayo Clinic in English.
As a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, RSPP has special access to Mayo Clinic knowledge and resources.

< Back

Joint pain


Definition

Joint pain is discomfort in a joint. Sometimes, the joint swells and feels warm as well.

Joint pain can be a symptom of many ailments, including some viruses. The most common cause of joint pain is arthritis. There are more than 100 types of arthritis.

Joint pain can be mild, causing soreness only after certain activities. Or it can be severe, making even small movements very painful.

Causes

Causes of joint pain include:

  • Adult Still disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis) (The death of bone tissue due to limited blood flow.)
  • Bone cancer
  • Broken bone
  • Bursitis (A condition in which small sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near joints become inflamed.)
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis)
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Paget's disease of bone
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Pseudogout
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rickets
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Sprains (Stretching or tearing of a tissue band called a ligament, which connects two bones together in a joint.)
  • Tendinitis (A condition that happens when swelling called inflammation affects a tendon.)

When to see a doctor

Joint pain is rarely an emergency. Mild joint pain often can be cared for at home.

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have joint pain and:

  • Swelling.
  • Redness.
  • Tenderness and warmth around the joint.
  • Fever.

See a health care provider right away if an injury causes joint pain and:

  • The joint looks out of shape.
  • You can't use the joint.
  • The pain is severe.
  • There's sudden swelling.

Self-care

When caring for mild joint pain at home, follow these tips:

  • Try pain relievers you can get without a prescription. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
  • Don't move in ways that make the pain worse.
  • Apply ice or a package of frozen peas to the painful joint for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day.
  • Apply a heating pad, soak in a warm tub or take a warm shower to relax muscles and increase blood flow.

Content Last Updated: 05-Apr-2023
© 1998-2023 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use.