Pains in multiple joints can be a frustrating and distressing experience, especially when you are unsure of the cause. Around 15.5 million people in England live with chronic pain, and much of this pain goes undiagnosed for a number of years, which could result in the worsening of symptoms, poor mobility, declining mental health and other negative side effects.Not only that, but pain in multiple joints is a symptom of several serious conditions which, if left untreated, could lead to severe disability. If in doubt, consult the help of a rheumatologist who will be able to diagnose the issue and give you clarity.
What causes multiple joints to hurt at the same time?
Joint pain is common, but not all joint pain has the same cause. In fact, there are a wide variety of medical conditions associated with joint pain, some with additional symptoms that can cross over with other conditions, making joint pain difficult to diagnose without the help of a specialist.
Conditions that can cause multiple joints to hurt at the same time include:
Inflammatory arthritis is a term that is used to describe a number of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. It can lead to pain and swelling in multiple joints.
These autoimmune and immune-modulated conditions are a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy joint tissue, resulting in swelling and pain caused by inflammation.
Although osteoarthritis is usually associated with localised joint pain, it can also contribute to pain and stiffness in multiple areas. When three or more joints are affected, it is called generalised osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that may cause pain which comes and goes, or the pain may be continuous. It can also result in enlarged joints, a crunching sound or sensation in the joints (crepitus), limited range of movement and muscle loss.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), also known as lupus
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease that impacts joints, the skin, kidneys and other organs. Joint pain is a common symptom which can occur in multiple joints simultaneously, and can be accompanied by other symptoms. In cases of lupus, this type of joint pain is caused by inflammatory arthritis.
The affected joints may feel tender, stiff and swollen, and can feel warm to touch. Symptoms are usually worse in the mornings.
Fibromyalgia can cause joint pain, but this pain is different to that caused by conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, because it is not associated with inflammation of the joints. Instead, it could be a result of a change in the way that the central nervous system processes pain.
Fibromyalgia-related joint pain can feel like a dull ache, and may be accompanied by swelling and stiffness. Symptoms can come and go, and can vary in severity from day to day.
Infections can sometimes cause reactive arthritis, which can result in pain, redness and swelling in various joints. It can be linked to food poisoning, other infections in the gut, throat infections, parvovirus and even sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In some cases, the initial infection will have disappeared on its own before the symptoms of reactive arthritis appear, making it difficult to determine the cause.
Some metabolic conditions such as gout and diabetes can lead to joint pain. In cases of gout, this is because uric acid crystals build up in the joints. This can also be the case with diabetes, however diabetic joint pain can also be caused by nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy).
What are the red flags for joint pain?
If you are experiencing pain in multiple joints without an apparent cause, these red flags should prompt a visit to a rheumatology clinic:
- Unexplained pains that persist for more than two weeks – it is important to remember that no unexplained pain is normal. If you are experiencing pain in your joints that does not go away within two weeks, consult a specialist as soon as possible.
- Multiple joint pain without swelling – this is likely a sign of a non-inflammatory condition such as osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia.
- Multiple joint pain with swelling – if the joint pain is accompanied by swelling, this suggests an inflammatory condition.
- Limited range of motion – if a joint does not have the full range of motion because it is too stiff or painful to move past a certain point, this may signify joint inflammation or damage.
- Persistent fatigue – joint pain accompanied by fatigue that does not go away can indicate an autoimmune or inflammatory condition. If fever is present, this could indicate an underlying inflammatory process.
- Early Morning Stiffness – persistent stiffness in the morning for longer than half an hour could suggest an autoimmune inflammatory arthritis.
Can osteoarthritis make your whole body ache?
Osteoarthritis is commonly associated with localised joint pain. However, it is possible that the condition can contribute to aching sensations throughout the body. This is because, while osteoarthritis does not spread, other joints in the same individual may become affected by damaged cartilage, resulting in widespread pain or discomfort.
Although osteoarthritis cannot be prevented, you can minimise your risk of developing the condition, or the condition affecting multiple joints, by seeking the advice of a specialist and making healthy lifestyle changes.
What should I do if I have pain in multiple joints?
If you have pain in multiple joints, it is important to avoid self-diagnosis, as the symptoms of certain conditions associated with joint pain can cross over. Seek the help of a specialist as soon as possible to obtain a medical diagnosis and begin a bespoke treatment plan.
Contact our friendly team to book your joint pain consultation today by calling 0207 126 7264 or using our contact form.