Joints are places in your body where two bones come together, such as your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
Joints also exist where you might not think, such as between the many bones in your feet, hands, pelvis, and spine.
Severe pain in more than one joint (often more than 5) is usually caused by a long-term joint disorder
Some diseases that cause joint pain may also cause rash, fever, eye pain, or mouth sores
What causes pain in many joints?
The causes for pain in many joints usually are different than those for pain in a single joint Joint Pain: Single Joint Joints are places in your body where two bones come together, such as your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Joints also exist where you might not think. For example, there... read more .
Pain in many joints is usually caused by:
Arthritis is joint inflammation that causes swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints. The causes of the arthritis are different depending on whether the joints started hurting suddenly (acutely) or have been hurting for a long time (chronic).
Sudden (acute) arthritis in more than one joint is most often caused by:
Infection from a virus
The start of a joint disorder or a flare up of a long-term joint disorder (such as rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis. RA is a type of arthritis in which your body's immune system... read more )
Less common causes include:
Chronic arthritis in more than one joint is caused by:
Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis. RA is a type of arthritis in which your body's immune system... read more , psoriatic arthritis Psoriatic Arthritis Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some... read more , or systemic lupus erythematosus Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a long-term autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks parts of your own body. Lupus is most common in women between the... read more
The most common disorders outside the joints that cause pain around the joints include:
Bursitis Bursitis A bursa is a small sac filled with fluid. You have many bursae (the plural of bursa). Bursae cushion your muscles, tendons, and ligaments around joints and keep them from rubbing against each... read more or tendinitis Tendinitis Tendons are tough pieces of tissue that connect your muscles to your bones. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. Tendinitis causes pain, especially when you move that tendon It's most common... read more
When should I see a doctor for pain in many joints?
See a doctor right away if you have joint pain in more than one joint and these warning signs:
Joint swelling, warmth, and redness
New skin rashes, spots, or purple blotches
Sores in your mouth, nose, or on your genitals
Chest pain, trouble breathing, or new or severe cough
Pain in your belly
Fever, sweats, or chills
Eye redness or pain
Call a doctor if you have joint pain in many joints but no warning signs.
What will happen at my doctor’s visit?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history and do a physical exam.
Certain symptoms can help the doctor decide what is causing your joint pain. These symptoms include whether the pain:
Is in the same joint on both sides of your body (for example, both knees or both hands)
Moves from joint to joint
Is in your spine and/or pelvis
Doctors may do tests such as:
Tests of joint fluid—doctors take fluid out of one of your joints with a needle and send it for tests
Imaging tests Tests for Musculoskeletal Disorders A doctor can often diagnose a musculoskeletal disorder based on the history and the results of a physical examination. Laboratory tests, imaging tests, or other diagnostic procedures are sometimes... read more , usually x-rays but sometimes CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
How do doctors treat pain in many joints?
Doctors will treat the disorder that causes your joint pain. For example, if you have an autoimmune disorder Autoimmune Diseases The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually attacks invading bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. With an autoimmune... read more (when your body's immune system causes the body to attack its own tissues), you may need medicine to calm down your immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more .
Doctors may also treat your joint pain with:
Medicines called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen
A splint or sling
Applying heat or cold
Exercise (such as walking or riding a bike) helps keep the joints loose and your muscles strong if you have long-term arthritis.