Pain is also a feature of joint inflammation (arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) and infection, and extremely rarely it can be a cause of cancer of the joint. Pain within the joint is a common cause of shoulder pain, ankle pain, and knee pain. Joint pain is also referred to as Arthralgia

In older people, joint pain that gets steadily worse is usually a sign of osteoarthritis.

It covers other possible causes of:

  • Pain in just one joint
  • Pain in many joints

1. Pain in just one joint

  • Inflammation of the joint lining the thin layer of tissue lining the joints and tendons may be inflamed – a condition called traumatic synovitis. It usually doesn’t cause any redness or heat.
  • Gout or Pseudogout If the skin over the joint is hot and red, and the pain comes in repeated attacks. Both conditions are types of arthritis. Gout usually affects the joint of the big toe first, before affecting other joints. It’s important to correctly diagnose gout, as treatment will prevent future attacks of joint pain and disability. Pseudogout is a similar condition to gout but usually affects the knee joint first.
  • Damage to the cartilage at the back of the kneecap Knee pain that feels worse when going up or down stairs could be a sign of a damaged kneecap – a condition called chondromalacia patellae. This shouldn’t cause any redness or heat around the knee.
  • Bleeding into the joint space If you’ve recently had an injury to the joint, such as a torn ligament or a fracture, it may cause bleeding into the joint spaces. This is known as haemarthrosis. Signs of haemarthrosis are: swelling of the joint, warmth, stiffness and bruising, which occur soon after the injury
  • You should go to the hospital immediately for treatment if you have a very swollen joint

Less Common Causes:

  • a fracture – read about abroken arm or wrist, broken leg, broken ankle or hip fracture
  • reactive arthritis– which usually develops after an infection and tends to affect young adults
  • psoriatic arthritis– a type of arthritis that affects up to one in five people with psoriasis 
  • rheumatoid arthritis– which can start in just one joint, with the pain coming and going 
  • Osgood-Schlatter’s disease– swelling and tenderness over the bony bump just below the kneecap

Rarely, the cause may be:

  • septic arthritis– a serious condition that causes a painful, hot, swollen joint that you won’t be able to move (sometimes with fever) – see your GP urgently or go to A&E
  • haemophilia– an inherited condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot 
  • a tropical infection
  • cancer
  • crumbling of the bone (avascular necrosis) – caused by a lack of blood supply
  • repeated dislocation of the joint

2. Pain in many joints

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in the joints – usually the hands, feet and wrists. The pain may come and go in the early phases, with long periods between attacks. It can leave you feeling generally unwell and tired.
  • Psoriatic arthritis affects up to one in five people with psoriasis. This type of arthritis is unpredictable, but flare-ups can usually be managed with treatment. Like other types of arthritis, it means that one or more of your joints are inflamed and become swollen, stiff, painful and difficult to move.
  • A viral infection that causes arthritis can cause pain in the joints and symptoms of a fever include:
      –  Viral hepatitis – liver inflammation caused by a virus
      –  Rubella– a viral infection that used to be common in children
  • A disease of the connective tissue Widespread joint pain is sometimes a sign of a disease that affects almost all the organs of the body, such as:
      –  Lupus– where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissue and organs
      –  scleroderma– where the immune system attacks connective tissue underneath the skin, causing hard, thickened areas of skin

How Can Rehab Basics Help?

At Rehab Basics we can help you understand what happens to your joints and muscles when you have arthritis. Understanding your arthritis will help you to manage its effects.

Managing your pain:

  • Arthritis can cause pain in one particular part of the body or more widespread joint and muscle pain. Medications will help but a physiotherapist can tell you about other methods of pain relief that work alongside your medications. You’ll be able to continue with some of these treatments yourself between appointments:
  • Mobilising, stretching and strengthening Arthritis can cause joint stiffness and muscle weakness,

  • Improve range of movement in joints, advise on techniques and exercises so you can keep your joints working as well as possible.

  • Hydrotherapy makes it easier to move in water – the warmth is soothing and the water supports your weight so that you can move your joints and muscles without straining them.

  • Splinting of swollen or painful joints may be helpful, for example during a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) works by blocking pain messages to your brain and altering your perception of pain. A TENS machine is a small electronic device that sends pulses to your nerve endings via pads placed on your skin. This causes a tingling sensation that you may find soothing.

  • A wrist working splint

  • Graded exercise starts slowly and increases in small steps. This will help you to strengthen your muscles and joints and increase your fitness.

  • Manipulation can help to improve the range of movement in your joint. It’s not appropriate for every patient, but your physiotherapist will be able to advise whether it could be useful to you.

  • Improving your fitness. Many people are afraid that exercise will increase their pain or cause further damage to their joints, but your joints are designed to move and the muscles and tissues around them become weaker if they’re not used. This can cause your joint to become unstable and may reduce your mobility and independence. Exercise can increase your general fitness, help you to lose weight or keep to a healthy weight, improve your general mobility and make you feel more self-confident.

  • Hypermobile joints, where the range of movement is beyond the normal range. Some physiotherapists specialise in joint hypermobility or other conditions.

  • Ice packs can be used to soothe hot, swollen joints.

  • Heat packs help to relax tense, tired muscles.

Treatment Sessions are offered in clinics across Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes or at Home Environment.

For further information about our service or to book an appointment with Rehab Basics please contact us