Joint pain is a very common problem withÂ many possible causes, but it's usually a result of injuryÂ or arthritis.
In older people, joint pain that gets steadily worse is usually a sign of osteoarthritis.Â It may affect just 1 joint or many.
See your GP ifÂ you have persistent symptoms of osteoarthritis.
The information and advice on this page should not be used to self-diagnose your condition, butÂ may give you a betterÂ idea of what's causing your pain.
Pain in just 1 joint
The knee joint is probably the most frequently damaged jointÂ and is particularly vulnerableÂ as it takes the full weight of your body.
But knee pain is not always a joint problem. Learn about the most common causes of knee painÂ and what you should do.
Inflammation of the joint lining
If you have injured the joint recently and it suddenly becomes painful again, theÂ thin layer of tissue lining the joints and tendons may be inflamed, a condition calledÂ traumatic synovitis.
It usually does not cause any redness or heat.
You should be able to manage injury-related swelling at homeÂ with anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, an icepack andÂ rest.
Gout or pseudogout
If the skin over theÂ joint is hot and red, and the pain comes in repeated attacks, the cause is likely to be either gout or pseudogout.
Both of these 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 treatmentÂ will prevent future attacks of joint pain and disability.
Pseudogout is similar to gout, but usuallyÂ affects the knee joint first.
See your GP ifÂ you think you have gout or pseudogout.
Damage to the cartilageÂ at the back of the kneecap
Knee pain that feels worse when you go up or down stairs could be a sign of a damaged kneecap, calledÂ chondromalacia patellae.Â
This should not cause any redness or heat around the knee.
The cause is not understood, but it can be linked to overuse of the knee.
You can treat this problemÂ yourselfÂ with anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, an icepack andÂ rest.
Bleeding into the joint space
If you have recently had an injury to the knee joint, such as a torn ligament or knee fracture,Â it mayÂ cause bleeding into the joint spaces. This is known as haemarthrosis.
Signs of haemarthrosis are:
- swelling of the knee
- stiffness and bruising, which occur soon after the injury
Go to A&E immediately for treatment if you have a very swollen knee following an injury.
Less common causes
Sudden pain in a joint is less commonly caused by:
- a fracture â read about a broken arm or wrist, broken leg,Â broken ankle or hip fracture
- reactive arthritisÂ â which usually develops after an infection andÂ tends to affect young adults
- psoriatic arthritisÂ â a type of arthritis that affects up to 1 in 5 people with psoriasisÂ
- rheumatoid arthritisÂ âÂ which can start in just 1 joint, with the painÂ coming and goingÂ
- Osgood-Schlatter's disease â swelling and tenderness over the bony bump just below the kneecap
Rarely, the cause may be:
- septic arthritisÂ â a serious health condition that causes a painful, hot, swollen joint that you will not be able to moveÂ (sometimes withÂ a high temperature); see your GP urgently or go to A&E
- haemophiliaÂ â an inherited illness that affects the blood's ability to clotÂ
- aÂ tropical infection
- crumbling of the bone (avascular necrosis)Â â caused byÂ a lack of blood supply
- repeated dislocation of the joint
Pain inÂ many joints
Rheumatoid arthritisÂ is a 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 stages, with long periods between attacks.
ItÂ can make you feel generally unwell and tired.
Psoriatic arthritis affects up to 1 in 5 people with psoriasis.Â
This type of arthritis is unpredictable, but flare-ups canÂ usually be controlled with treatment.Â
Like other types of arthritis, it means that 1 or more of your joints are inflamed and become swollen, stiff, painful and difficult to move.
A viral infection that causes arthritis
ExamplesÂ of viralÂ infections that can cause pain in the joints and symptoms of a fever include:
- viral hepatitis â liver inflammation caused by a virus
- rubella â a viral infection that used to be common in children
A disease of the connective tissue
Widespread joint painÂ is sometimes a sign of a disease that affects almost all the organs of the body, such as:
- lupusÂ â where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissue and organs
- sclerodermaÂ â where the immune system attacks connective tissue underneath the skin, causing hard, thickened areas of skin
Less common causes
Widespread joint pain can less commonly be caused by:
- a rarer type of arthritisÂ â such asÂ ankylosing spondylitis,Â juvenile arthritis or reactive arthritis
- BehĂ§et'sÂ syndromeÂ â a rare and poorly understood condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels
- Henoch-SchĂ¶nlein purpuraÂ â a rare condition, usually seen in children, that causes blood vessels to become inflamed
- some treatmentsÂ â including steroid therapy,Â isoniazid andÂ hydralazine
- hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathyÂ âÂ a rare disorder that causes clubbing of the fingers, seen in people withÂ lung cancer
- sarcoidosisÂ â a rare condition that causes small patches of tissue to develop in the organs