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.
The causes for pain in many joints usually are different than those for pain in a single joint.
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)
Less common causes include:
Chronic arthritis in more than one joint is caused by:
The most common disorders outside the joints that cause pain around the joints include:
See a doctor right away if you have joint pain in more than one joint and these warning signs:
Call a doctor if you have joint pain in many joints but no warning signs.
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:
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, usually x-rays but sometimes CT scan or MRI
Doctors will treat the disorder that causes your joint pain. For example, if you have an autoimmune disorder (when your body's immune system causes the body to attack its own tissues), you may need medicine to calm down your immune system.
Doctors may also treat your joint pain with:
Exercise (such as walking or riding a bike) helps keep the joints loose and your muscles strong if you have long-term arthritis.