How to Figure Out Why Joints Hurt

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What are some causes of joint pain?

How to Figure Out Why Joints Hurt

Your joints can hurt for any number of reasons. Certain signs indicate a problem that needs to be checked out, while others point to a warm bath as the remedy. Of course, there's also everything in between. Here are some general guidelines relative to joint pain causes that can offer some perspective:

  • Joint pain that is accompanied by rapid swelling means a disruption of an internal structure, such as an acute ligament or cartilage tear. Your best bet is to apply ice and compression, elevate the area and avoid using it. A severely torn ligament will bleed within the joint, which can cause heat as well. Examination by a doctor is necessary in that case.
  • Joint pain plus instability signals some type of internal derangement. The pain may be due to torn cartilage catching on and irritating surrounding structures.
  • Joint pain plus heat or warmth to the touch means there is probably some type of acute inflammation going on. There may be an infection within the joint, or possibly another condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or Lyme disease. Consult a doctor or use medication that has been prescribed for such conditions.
  • Joint pain that is achy is most likely due to arthritic changes or overworking the area, either from too much activity or doing something out of the ordinary. This type of discomfort usually responds best to analgesics, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and either a warm bath or an ice pack, whichever feels better.
  • Joint pain that is cyclical may be the result of fluid retention or pressure changes in the air. For example, women who experience pre-menstrual syndrome tend to retain fluid, and during this time may notice joint pain. Similarly, changes in the weather can increase pressure within a joint and trigger pain. Flying in a pressurized cabin can cause a similar reaction in the joints.

Listen to your body and do whatever works to alleviate your aching joints. And if you have any doubt as to the cause, see a clinician in your area by going to and using the free clinician search tool.



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