Joint pain may occur in one joint (unilateral) such as the knee or elbow, or unilaterally, such as in both ankles or both wrists. The knees are the joints most commonly afflicted by pain, although pain in the knee is not always a joint problem, as the knee cartilage and kneecap can be easily damaged or injured.
When the joint pain occurs in many joints or in joints on both sides of the body, a systemic condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, is more likely.
If the pain is affecting just one joint, and is not due to injury (the knees are the most common joints to suffer injury), it could be caused by a number of conditions, including:
- Osteoarthritis (which can affect one or many joints).
- Inflammation (due to recent injury, which can usually be managed with rest).
- Gout (when the skin around the joint is hot and red, the pain pattern comes in attacks, and most commonly starts in the big toe).
- Damaged kneecap.
- Internal bleeding (due to injury, requires medical treatment).
- Reactive arthritis.
- Psoriatic arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Septic arthritis, haemophilia, cancer (all rare causes of joint pain).
Pain occurring in many joints around the body is most commonly due to:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (hands, feet, and wrists are most commonly affected).
- Psoriatic arthritis.
- Viral infection (viral hepatitis, rubella).
- Connective tissue disease (lupus, scleroderma, which also affect other organs of the body).
What to do next
Getting to the bottom of the cause of your joint pain is the first step towards finding the right treatment and relief. Make an appointment to see one of our doctors, who can help you decide on the best course of action.
Increased joint pain during menopause is caused by hormonal imbalance and shifting levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body. Oestrogen is thought to play a particularly important role in joint health.
The less common causes of unilateral joint pain (affecting both sides of the body) include rarer types of arthritis like ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile or reactive arthritis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, cancer, steroid therapy, sarcoidosis, Behçet’s syndrome, hypertrophic pulmonary osteoarthropathy, or cancer.
The main factor at play in joint pain is increasing age, but weight, diet, hormone levels, and genetics are all potential risk factors. Nutrition is also important, as joint pain can be caused by vitamin D deficiency and low oestrogen levels.