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Quick Facts

Joint Pain: Single Joint

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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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 are joints between the many bones in your feet, hands, pelvis, and spine.

What causes pain in a single joint?

At all ages, the most common cause of sudden pain in one joint is:

  • Injury

If you haven't been injured, the most common causes depend on your age.

Among young adults:

Among older adults:

Less common causes of pain in one joint include:

Osteonecrosis is when bone dies and collapses. Bone can die as a result of serious injury (such as a broken hip) or as a side effect of some medicines (such as corticosteroids).

When should I see a doctor?

What will happen at my doctor’s visit?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history and do a physical exam.

Doctors may do tests such as:

How do doctors treat joint pain?

Doctors will treat the cause of your pain. For example, if you have a bone fracture, doctors may put your joint in a cast. If you have a joint infection, they will give you antibiotics and often do surgery to drain the infection.

Doctors may also treat your joint pain with:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen

  • A splint or sling

  • Applying heat or cold—sometimes doctors will have you alternate heat and cold

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Metastatic bone tumors are cancers that originate elsewhere in the body and then spread (metastasize) to the bones. Any cancer can spread to the bones, although some types are more likely to do so than others. Which of the following types of cancer is most likely to spread to the bones?
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