Skip to Main Content

Joint pain

Overview of joint pain

Joint pain is a symptom that usually suggests something is going wrong inside a joint.

Joints occur anywhere in the body where two or more bones meet, and are relatively complex. They contain ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and lubricating fluid, all of which allow your body to move and function effortlessly. Problems with any of these structures, including the bones that meet at the joint, can cause pain.

The pain can be mild and bothersome or severe and quite debilitating. Pain may occur only when the joint is active, or it can hurt continuously even at rest. It can also affect one joint or multiple joints. Joint pain is frequently caused by chronic conditions like arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

If you’re experiencing swelling, pain, or limited mobility because of pain in your joints, an orthopedic doctor at Dignity Health can assess your symptoms and provide complete care for your condition. If you’re looking for a specialist for joint pain, Find a Doctor today.


In addition to joint pain itself, you may notice other symptoms depending on the type of condition or injury. During your doctor appointment, you should mention any other symptoms that occur with your joint pain, such as:

  • Clicking or popping sounds
  • Deformity
  • Limited range of motion or not being able to move through the full motion of the joint
  • Stiffness, including when the stiffness seems to be worse and what helps loosen the joint
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and redness
  • Bruising or discoloration around the joint


There are many potential causes of joint pain. Any information you share with your doctor about your situation can help lead to the right diagnosis.

A variety of conditions can cause joint pain, such as:

  • Arthritis, including gout and osteoarthritis
  • Autoimmune disorders, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis, inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joint
  • Infections, such as septic arthritis or infectious arthritis
  • Injuries, including overuse, sprain, dislocation, and fracture
  • Tendonitis, inflammation of the structures that attach muscles to the bones within a joint

Risk factors

While joint pain can be the result of an acute injury such as a fall or collision, it can also result from repetitive motion or aging-related degeneration. Some activities and lifestyle factors make these kinds of joint issues more likely. Common risk factors for joint pain include:

  • Having a family history of arthritis or other chronic joint condition
  • Age (joints tend to deteriorate with age and become more susceptible to wear and tear)
  • Previous injury to your joint
  • Working an occupation that involves hard labor or repetitive motions
  • Playing sports that require repetitive motion
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Eating a diet high in salt or sugar
  • Overtraining or training with an injury
  • Not using protective gear or using gear that doesn’t fit properly
  • Lack of conditioning or physical fitness
  • Overstretching or stretching on cold muscles


Joint pain is very common and can’t always be avoided, but it is possible to reduce your risk, for example by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight, as recommended by your doctor
  • Eating a healthy diet high in omega-3 fats and leafy vegetables
  • Attending regular checkups with your doctor
  • Not smoking or quitting smoking
  • Using proper form during activities
  • Making sure you have the appropriate equipment for sports and other activities, including proper protective gear
  • Exercising regularly to strengthen the muscles around your joints
  • Avoiding pushing through pain and resting if any injuries develop
  • Using proper posture and ergonomics while working
  • Always warming up before stretching

Your doctor can also recommend further steps to help you avoid joint pain or reinjury, based on your personal health history.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.