8 Health Conditions That Cause Joint Pain

From gout to rheumatoid arthritis to psoriatic arthritis, several health conditions cause sore joints.

Consult a healthcare provider if you have joint pain or soreness. Figuring out the cause of your joint pain and starting a suitable therapy or treatment plan can provide relief.

You may need to consult rheumatologist, or a specialist who deals with diseases of the muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons, if painful symptoms persist.

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is when cartilage breaks down, causing the bones to rub against each other, causing pain and swelling. OA usually affects the knees, hips, lower back and neck, fingers, the base of the thumb, and big toe.

OA is one of the most common chronic joint conditions, affecting about 32.5 million people in the United States. For the most part, OA impacts older adults. Though, anyone can develop OA. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of OA. Overusing the joints, such as from playing a sport for many years, also contributes to OA.

"If it gets worse the more you do, and the more you're up and down after activities of a day, that makes us think more of an osteoarthritis situation and not an inflammatory situation," James R. O'Dell, MD, chief of rheumatology at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, told Health.

Exercise and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can help alleviate painful symptoms.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation where tendons and ligaments connect to bone. PsA can begin at any age but most commonly appears between 30–50. PsA affects around 30% of people with psoriasis.

Some of the most common symptoms of PsA include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Managing PsA can be challenging, mainly because no cure exists. A rheumatologist may suggest treatments that slow or stop the progression of PsA, lessen pain, and maintain as much range of motion as possible.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease affecting the joints. RA causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in many joints on both sides, such as the hands or knees. Other symptoms can include weight loss, fever, fatigue, and weakness. RA is much less common than OA, affecting 0.24% of people globally.

RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. In other words, RA can affect other tissues and body parts, such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.

To treat RA, a healthcare provider may prescribe medications and advise lifestyle changes to prevent joint damage and alleviate painful symptoms. In severe cases of RA, surgery may be required.


Like PsA and RA, lupus is an autoimmune disease. In addition to the joints, lupus affects many body parts, including the skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs, among others.

Lupus symptoms vary between people and may include the following:

  • Anemia
  • Blood clotting
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Kidney problems
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Rashes

There is no cure for lupus. Though, many people with lupus live long, healthy lives. A healthcare provider can develop a treatment plan that prevents flare-ups and alleviates symptoms as they occur.


Gout is a form of arthritis that often causes severe pain. Gout affects one joint at a time, typically beginning at the big toe. High levels of uric acid in the blood cause gout. Uric acid is the byproduct of purines in liver, turkey, beer, and red meat. 

In some cases, gout symptoms flare, then go into remission. In some cases, gout symptoms flare, then go into remission. Painful flares can last a few days to weeks. Typically, alcohol and high-fructose foods and drinks trigger flares

Gout is highly treatable. For example, having overweight or obesity increases the risk of gout. Therefore, losing weight can help alleviate pressure on the hips and knees. A healthcare provider may also advise avoiding purine-rich foods—such as scallops, herring, and red meat—and taking medications.

Lyme Disease

Joint pain is one of many possible symptoms of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness. One of the classic early signs of Lyme disease is a telltale "bulls-eye" rash. Then, one of the last symptoms, usually weeks or months after a tick bite, is joint pain. Painful symptoms may occur in the knees, shoulders, hips, or jaw.

Typically, Lyme disease only affects one or two joints at the same time. Joint pain becomes less frequent and less severe over time. Though, joint damage can be permanent if untreated. Early diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care are essential if you have Lyme disease.


The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck, controls many bodily functions. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is underactive. You may notice changes in your body, including joint pain, if your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone.

In addition to joint pain, hypothyroidism symptoms include:

  • Changes in heart rate
  • Changes in mood, including depression
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Goiter, which is an engorged lump in the middle of your neck, near your thyroid gland
  • Infertility
  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Irregular and heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Weight gain

If you think you may have an underactive thyroid, consult your healthcare provider. Treatment includes hormone therapy.


Fibromyalgia causes widespread tenderness, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, memory problems, and more. About 2% of adults in the United States have fibromyalgia.

There is no specific test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Therefore, diagnosing fibromyalgia often takes a long time. To manage symptoms, a healthcare provider may advise pain relievers, aerobic and strengthening exercises, stress management, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

A Quick Review

There are many causes of joint pain. Whether you have one tender, aching joint or joint pain in multiple places, consult a healthcare provider who can diagnose the cause of your pain. They can help you devise a treatment plan to alleviate pain, protect against joint damage, and maintain your range of motion.

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15 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Rheumatology. What Is a Rheumatologist?

  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Osteoarthritis.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis (OA).

  4. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriatic arthritis.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  6. Cross M, Smith E, Hoy D, et al. The global burden of rheumatoid arthritis: Estimates from the global burden of disease 2010 studyAnn Rheum Dis. 2014;73(7):1316-1322. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204627

  7. MedlinePlus. Rheumatoid arthritis.

  8. MedlinePlus. Lupus.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lupus symptoms.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosing and treating lupus.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gout.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme arthritis.

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and symptoms of untreated Lyme disease.

  14. MedlinePlus. Hypothyroidism.

  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fibromyalgia.

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