Arthralgia means joint pain. It can be a symptom of arthritis and other conditions. Arthritis is inflammation in the joints, which may cause joint pain and stiffness.
We look at the treatment options available, including home remedies.
The article also discusses the risk factors for arthritis and arthralgia.
When pain affects more than one joint, the medical name is polyarthralgia.
Arthralgia can be an early sign of various diseases before other symptoms appear.
Conditions that may involve arthralgia include:
- osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis, and other types of arthritis
- fibromyalgia, which causes pain throughout the body
- synovitis — inflammation within a joint
- tenosynovitis, which is inflammation of a tendon
- bone marrow edema — when fluid collects in the bone marrow, for instance, with cancer or a bone bruise
- spondylitis, which is a group of conditions that affect the spine
- Whipple disease
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- hepatitis and other viral infections, when it may occur with fever and malaise
- during and after pregnancy
Inflammation may be present but subclinical. This means that laboratory tests cannot detect it. If inflammation becomes more severe, tests will be able to detect it.
Some health conditions can cause arthralgia without inflammation.
As well as RA and OA, the different types of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and gout. These can all feature:
- joint pain
- joint stiffness
- a reduced range of motion
Arthralgia may be present before other symptoms of arthritis appear. As well as pain, a person may notice the following symptoms in their joints:
- inflammation or redness in or around one or more joints
- swelling and warmth
- crepitus, or popping joints
- joints that snap into place or lock instead of moving fluidly
- skin changes, fatigue, and other symptoms depending on the type of arthritis
How arthritis affects the joints
Within a joint, changes that occur with arthritis will depend on the type. They may include:
- a loss of cartilage or bone in the joint
- a buildup of bone tissue, which can form bone spurs
- changes in the shape of the joint
- a buildup of uric acid crystal deposits in the joint in the case of gout
These features can contribute to joint pain, or arthralgia.
The risk factors for arthritis will depend on the type. However, people are
- are older adults
- are female
- experience certain infections
- have certain genetic features
- have a previous joint injury, such as a repetitive strain injury
- do a job that involves repetitive actions, such as knee bending
- have obesity
- smoke tobacco
- have an inflammatory condition, such as lupus or psoriasis
- have a condition where the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the joints, which can lead to RA or PsA
Treatments for arthralgia and arthritis will depend on their underlying cause, but both will aim to address joint pain.
If other symptoms and diagnostic tests reveal an underlying cause for joint pain, a doctor
If there is no clear cause, they may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications to manage the symptoms. They may also recommend pain relief alongside treatment for the main cause of arthralgia.
Medical options for pain relief include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- prescription pain relief medications
- corticosteroid injections for severe symptoms during a flare
- topical creams and ointments containing lidocaine or capsaicin
If a person has arthritis, a doctor will recommend treatment to address both the pain and the underlying cause.
Here are some examples:
- For RA and PsA, they may prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologic drugs, which affect how the immune system works.
- For gout, they may recommend tablets to reduce levels of uric acid.
- Treatments for OA mainly focus on managing pain and inflammation.
Learn more here
Learn more about arthritis in our dedicated hub, including symptoms, diagnosis, arthritis myths, and the latest research.
Home remedies for joint pain
Home, alternative, and lifestyle remedies may help manage joint pain. Options include:
- doing regular low-impact exercise, such as swimming, cycling, or yoga
- eating an arthritis-friendly diet to boost overall health and manage inflammation
- following a weight management plan
- having physical therapy
- applying warm and cool compresses
- practicing relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, and massage therapy
- getting enough rest
- avoiding repetitive motions
- avoiding or quitting smoking
Arthralgia is joint pain. It is a symptom of arthritis and various other conditions.
It may be an early sign of arthritis that appears before inflammation is severe enough to show up on tests.
Arthralgia is joint pain and can be a symptom of arthritis.
It can also occur as a reaction to some infections, following an injury, as a symptom of leukemia, and during certain treatments for cancer.
If a person sees a doctor with arthralgia, the doctor may carry out tests to identify the underlying cause. They will recommend treatment according to the underlying cause and the severity of joint pain.
They may recommend lifestyle strategies such as exercise, weight management, and smoking cessation if a person is at risk of developing arthritis.