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Joint pain
Joint pain

Joint pain

Joint pain, also called arthralgia, can affect only one joint, like the elbow or knee, or both joints, such as the wrists or ankles.

Health conditions can cause physical pain that affects the muscles, bones or joints. This pain can be disabling if left untreated or not managed effectively. Joint pain mostly affects the hands, hips, knees, and neck. Some conditions may also cause widespread joint pain in the body.

Joint pain can vary in pattern, duration, and severity. It often occurs with fatigue, muscle aches, stiffness and swelling.

What causes joint pain?

Arthritis is the most common cause of joint pain – joint inflammation. Different types of arthritis affect people, and each has a different management. The types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis

    Osteoarthritis, often described as joint wear and tear, is more likely to develop as people get older. People with previous joint injuries are likely to have osteoarthritis. It usually affects weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

    This condition is inflammatory arthritis that affects people of any age. It usually affects the hands and wrists and causes swelling over the joints. Other general symptoms are loss of appetite, fever and tiredness.

  • Gout

    Gout is a painful joint condition resulting from the accumulation of urate crystals (salt from uric acid in the body) inside the joint. It often affects the big toe but can occur in other joints.

  • Other inflammatory arthritis

    Other inflammatory arthritis include ankylosis spondylitis (affecting joints in the spine), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (affecting teenagers and children) and psoriatic arthritis (affecting the nails and skin).

    Sudden joint pain may be due to a fracture, an infection, or an injury to the soft tissue structure around the joint, such as a tendon or ligament.

Pain in a single joint

  • Neck pain

    Pain in the neck may result from osteoarthritis and general wear and tear of joints due to overuse or use.

  • Shoulder pain

    Injuries such as dislocation or inflammation of the surrounding ligaments, tendons or muscles can cause shoulder pain. Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder can occur, causing the shoulder to become stiff and painful.

  • Elbow pain

    An injury, trauma or infection from a wound near the elbow can cause elbow pain. Golfer’s or Tennis elbow occurs due to overuse, or repetitive strain injury can damage the tendons around the elbow.

  • Back pain

    Back pain can occur from poor posture, referred pain from the neck or hip, osteoporosis (thinning of the bone), injury or trauma causing a prolapsed disc or muscle pain.

  • Hip pain

    Hip pain may result from infection, osteoarthritis and referred pain from the back.

  • Knee pain

    Knee pain is the most common joint pain. It may be due to a referred pain from the calves, hips or back. It may also occur from an inflammation or infections. Bleeding into the joint can cause knee pain, so get immediate help if you have an injury and are on a blood-thinning medication like Warfarin, Aspirin, Clopidogrel or NOAC/DOAC.

  • Foot and ankle pain

    This pain may result from an ankle sprain or inflammation due to pseudogout or gout. These inflammatory conditions cause the skin over the big toe, wrist, knee, elbow or ankle to become red, hot and swollen. Ensure you seek advice if you think you have any of these conditions.

Pain in different joints

  • Fibromyalgia

    This pain occurs in the tendons, ligaments and muscles. It is a chronic condition without an obvious cause and is difficult to manage. Your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist for specialist care.

  • General infections in the body

    Flu symptoms, including a raised temperature, can cause general body aches. STIs, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can also cause reactive arthritis. Serious tropical infections such as Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue and others, such as Hepatitis and Lyme disease, can cause whole-body aches.

  • Osteoarthritis

    This condition results from wear and tear of the joint resulting from repetitive movements and weight-bearing joints like knees and hips. It is the most common arthritis in the UK and can be well managed using the right treatment.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis causes stiffness, swelling and pain in the smaller joints (toes, wrists, thumbs, fingers and ankles), often worsening in the mornings. The joints may become described over time, so specialist care with a rheumatologist is necessary.

  • Psoriatic arthritis

    Psoriatic arthritis has similar symptoms to rheumatoid arthritis but occurs in some people who have a skin condition called psoriasis.

  • Vitamin D deficiency

    Awareness of vitamin D has increased over the last few years, but it plays a vital role in maintaining healthy bones. Severe deficiency in vitamin D can cause joint pain. If you are concerned about a deficiency in vitamin D causing your joint pain, consult your GP or have a simple blood test to measure your vitamin D levels.

  • Connective tissue disorders

    Connective tissue disorders include Scleroderma, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Lupus. These conditions can be debilitating if managed poorly.

  • Rare causes

    Tumours or bone cancers, leukaemia and pain from other infections, like Lyme disease, can cause the conditions above.


You may need to visit a joint pain specialist who will take a careful history and ask questions concerning your symptoms. The next step is a clinical examination of the surrounding and affected joints.

Depending on the result of the tests, you may need further tests to identify the exact cause of the pain. Imaging may be necessary for joint pain that starts suddenly to find the cause. An X-ray can check for fractures, and an MRI or ultrasound can check for nerve damage or soft tissue.

Blood tests can check for changes in body chemicals that may indicate inflammation. The blood tests can check mineral and vitamin levels (such as vitamin D and calcium). In some cases, the doctor may take a sample of fluid in the joint, called aspirate, to check for the presence of crystals or bacteria.

Treatments for joint pain

Painkillers, targeted physiotherapy, and appropriate tests can help manage mild to moderate arthritis. A team of physical therapists, alongside joint pain specialists, can offer adequately tailored treatment plans.

Joint injections and long-term medications can reduce the number of flare-ups and inflammation. A joint pain specialist may need to offer care for people with chronic or long-term joint pain.

At Medical Express Clinic, we offer same-day walk-in clinic appointments, from diagnostics to blood tests and send results via email. We can also refer you to a local same-day X-ray service and other imaging tests, including referral to an orthopaedic surgeon or rheumatologist. Our service also includes offering the appropriate sick note or medical certificate if you miss school or work.

If you have joint pain, call us on 0207 499 1991 to book an appointment with our experienced doctor for an early assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does joint pain occur more during menopause?

Increased joint pain during menopause results from hormonal imbalance and fluctuating levels of progesterone and oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen plays a vital role in joint health.

What are some less common causes of joint pain?

The less common causes of pain in both sides of the body are the rarer types of arthritis, such as reactive or juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy, cancer, Behçet’s syndrome, sarcoidosis, steroid therapy, and Henoch-Schönlein purpura.

What are some risk factors for joint pain?

The primary contributing factor to joint pain is ageing, but genetics, hormone levels, diet, and weight are also risk factors. Nutrition is also a factor because joint pain may result from low oestrogen levels and vitamin D deficiency.