Why Are My Joints Hurting? Top 14 Causes Of Joint Pain

Why Are My Joints Hurting? Top 14 Causes Of Joint Pain

Have you just woken up with a sudden pain? Or it’s been bothering you for a while now?

Either way, you’re probably asking yourself – why are my joints hurting? You didn’t suffer any injury or accident – so the pain is a real mystery.

Well, it’s time for you to solve that mystery. Here are the top 14 causes of joint pain you could ever think of.

Believe me, there are about 99% chances that you find your real source of pain in this list.


#1 – Chronic Inflammation

Based on my experience – I believe this is the biggest cause of joint pain. Why? Inflammation always causes pain – in general.

But how can you tell if your joints are swollen?

As your joints aren’t visible from the outside, it’s hard to tell. But there are 3 major signs of inflammation:

  • pain 
  • warmth
  • redness

The pain is obvious – but if one area from your body is warm and red, it’s probably inflamed.

Now – what’s causing joint inflammation actually? There are 3 major things:

  • auto-immune arthritis – like rheumatoid or psoriatic forms
  • gout
  • infections

My Recommendation: If your joint pain is caused by chronic inflammation, the best remedy is turmeric.

This herb is the strongest anti-inflammatory I know, and it makes miracles for swollen joints. As it’s natural, it has very few side effects (unlike classic drugs).

Unless you have an infection causing your pain, turmeric is my #1 advice for inflammatory pain.


#2 – Arthritis

This is another major cause of joint pain. Arthritis is actually the #1 joint problem in the world. 

Now – here’s the thing. There are 2 different types of arthritis – you surely heard of them:

  • osteoarthritis
  • inflammatory arthritis

OA is caused by cartilage damage and it has minor inflammation – so they pain isn’t that bad.

On the other hand, inflammatory arthritis makes your joints swell – because of an auto-immune problem. It’s the swelling that causes the pain, which is usually pretty bad.

My Recommendation: These 2 forms are pretty different, so my advice is also different for each:


#3 – Cartilage Problems

It may sound weird, but cartilage problems can affect the joints in a major way.

In fact, they’re one of the top 5 causes of joint pain. So what kind of cartilage problems can you have?:

  • damage
  • tear
  • wear-off

These are all symptoms of osteoarthritis – this condition is caused by cartilage problems and it usually starts with joint pain and stiffness. 

So how can you tell if you have cartilage problems?:

  • your joints are painful and hard to move
  • there’s no swelling or redness
  • your joints feel very stiff after sitting down 

My Recommendation: Just like in OA, I recommend supplements with glucosamine sulfate + chondoritin. 

These 2 substances can rebuild cartilages, lubricate and protect them from additional damage. If you want a personal advice – this product is the best one I know for this kind of problems.


#4 – Certain Deficiencies

There are a few essential substances for the joints. So obviously, once you lack a certain nutrient, your joints will be the first to suffer. 

Which are these substances? I will only mention the most important ones:

  • glucosamine
  • MSM
  • vitamin D and calcium

Now – the first 2 are some natural substances we have in our body. The problem is that their production decreases with age.

So as you get older, you start having a deficiency in glucosamine and MSM – that is totally normal. 

But this is the #1 reason why many elderly develop osteoarthritis and joint pain. 

My Recommendation: It’s easy – try to compensate with supplements. But there’s one thing you should keep in mind:

If you have a lack of vitamin D or calcium, it’s better to ask your doctor. These 2 substances are more important for bones – rather than for joints.

So a deficiency is more dangerous – it increases the risk for fractures.


#5 – Lack Of Exercise

I know it sounds hard to believe – but if hardly move during the day, you could develop some joint problems. 

Here’s what I mean:

  • your joints lose flexibility and get stiff
  • the pain is a consequence

Now – you can rarely develop joint pain just because of this reason. But if you also have another problem joint-related, then a lack of exercise could make it worse.

So when can a lack of exercise affect your joints? I know 2 situations:

  • you’re overweight – there’s a lot of pressure on your joints
  • you’re very sick so you have to stay in bed most of the day – your joints lose flexibility

Now – the problem is that it’s pretty hard to find a solution for that. In case you’re overweight, you could try to lose some weight – but it’s not that easy.

In the other situation, it’s ever harder. There’s no way you can exercise when you can’t get out of your bed.

My Recommendation: Yoga is a great way to exercise – because it’s really easy. Compared to running or working out, it requires minimal energy.

However, I only recommend it if possible. If you really can’t do it – don’t stress too much about it.


#6 – Crohn Disease

If you never heard of this condition – there’s one thing you should know. It’s caused by an inflammation in the digestive tract – and yes, it’s an auto-immune problem.

Now, how can Crohn Disease cause joint pain? 

Science hasn’t found an answer to this question yet. But one thing is clear – it can produce 2 types of complications:

  • arthritis – joint inflammation and pain
  • arthralgia – joint pain without inflammation

But here’s something interesting – when you have Crohn Disease:

  • you have 20% chances to develop arthritis
  • you have 40% chances to get arthralgia

Now – this condition is pretty rare. So it’s not a major cause of joint pain.

But if you’re unlucky enough to have it, keep in mind that it could affect your joints at one point.

My Recommendation: There’s no real treatment or cure. But one thing is clear – this condition is caused by inflammation. (1)

So if you can control this inflammation, you can also control the disease itself. In this case, I can recommend you some natural anti-inflammatory.

Besides turmeric and Boswellia, there’s also ginger, cherries, celery or Cayenne pepper.


#7 – Bad Diet

The wrong foods can also affect your joints. But there’s one thing you should know from the start:

In other words, diet can be a cause of joint pain only if you have an additional problem.

So let’s assume you do. In this case, what foods can worsen your joint pain – and how?

Because of their unhealthy compounds, these foods promote inflammation. 

Once you have inflammation, pain also comes up – so they go hand in hand.

My Recommendation: Following a healthy diet. What exactly does this mean?

Fruits, vegetables, home-made meals and other foods that are less dangerous – you can find a longer list here.

You can also try different diets that promote healthy eating – the Paleo diet is just an example.

Even if it’s not one of my favorites, it can work for certain people – I would recommend giving it a try for a week (at most) and see if it helps. In case it doesn’t, get back to a healthy diet – that isn’t too hard to follow. 


#8 – Dehydration

Believe it or not – dehydration can make your joints painful.

And it’s pretty easy to explain – most parts of the joints are made of water in a high percent:

  • ligaments
  • cartilages
  • the joints themselves

So once they lose a percent of that water – they start to get dry, stiff and painful. 

Now – there’s some good news. Your body normally gives you many signals before you get to that:

  • you start feeling very thirsty
  • you also become tired and dizzy

So joint pain isn’t one of the first signs of dehydration.

But if you can’t find a real cause – try digging deep into this one and you can see if you’re dehydrated or not.

My Recommendation: I couldn’t possibly give you any advice except this one – drink plenty of water.

But I don’t agree that you have to drink a certain amount daily. Your body always lets you know if it needs something – so if it’s dehydrated, it will make you really thirsty, don’t worry.


#9 – SI Joint Dysfunction

That’s another pretty common cause of joint pain. But I have some good news – it’s easier to recognize.

What do I mean? Here’s the thing:

  • pain in the lower back (most of the times) or in the hips
  • standing discomfort
  • leg weakness
  • disturbed walking (in severe forms)

So the point is – when you have SI joint dysfunction, you feel no pain in your hands, shoulders or fingers. It’s mostly the bottom part that is affected.

For this reason, compared to arthritis – it’s much easier to recognize.

My Recommendation: Medical consult is probably the best thing, for one reason – you could have some back problems instead. So it’s better to know for sure it if’s the SI joint bothering. 

But in case it is, I would probably recommend the same thing as for inflammation – SI dysfunction is caused by swelling as well, so turmeric should work best.

You can also try physical therapy – it should help on the long term.


#10 – Side Effects

Did you know that some drugs can cause joint pain as a side effect? 

I had no idea about it – up to a point. So if you’re following a certain treatment and you woke up today with achy joints – it could be one of the drugs causing it.

Here are the top responsible:

  • calcium
  • vitamin C and vitamin D
  • iron
  • multivitamin complex

Now – these substances don’t cause joint pain usually. But this is a possible side effect – few people experience it, but it exists.

My Recommendation: The only thing you can do is to stop the treatment and replace the drug with another one. Now – that’s the easiest part.

The hardest job is to find out if that drug was really causing your joint pain – and not something else. 

But if you’re sure it is the responsible behind, replacing it should solve the problem.


#11 – Alcohol Excess

Alcohol isn’t good for the body in general – it causes a lot of harm on the long term. And apparently, it’s dangerous for the joints as well.

Now let me mention something – alcohol itself doesn’t harm the joints.

In fact, it doesn’t product joint pain all alone. It can only worsen an existing problem, like:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • cartilage damage
  • gout

How exactly does it do that? It’s pretty simple – alcohol dehydrates the joints. But it’s not the only one doing that – I know 2 other potential responsible:

The mechanism is simple – these substances dehydrate the body, including the joints. Once they lose water, they start getting dry, stiff and on the long term – painful.

My Recommendation: Don’t worry, I’m not advising you to give up these pleasurable ingredients. 

Instead, you shouldn’t exaggerate – you can drink a cup of coffee or a small glass of wine daily. But only as long as you don’t have any joint problem.

If you do, I would pay more attention and even decrease the dose – if possible.


#12 – Fibromyalgia

First of all – I’m not an expert in this condition, because I didn’t experience it. 

Basically, you have chronic pain all over your body without a certain cause. (2)

Now – fibromyalgia it’s pretty similar to RA. But at the same time, there are a few differences:

  • there’s no inflammation in fibromyalgia
  • fibromyalgia doesn’t damage joints or muscles
  • you can have both arthritis and fibromyalgia

As I said – I don’t know a lot about this condition. But it is a common cause of joint pain – especially in the US.

My Recommendation: The best thing is probably seeing a doctor.

Though there’s no cure for it, fibromylagia can be kept under control if it’s discovered at the right time. So I wouldn’t recommend herbs and natural remedies from the start.

Try classic medication and see how it goes – if you experience too many side effects, only then you should give natural remedies a try, in my opinion.


#13 – Gluten Intolerance

This is a pretty unknown cause of joint pain – why? 

Because people don’t believe that gluten could have anything to do with the joints. In fact, it does have a lot to do.

So here’s the thing:

  • gluten alone can’t cause joint pain
  • it can worsen an existing joint problem
  • gluten intolerance may affect the joints and cause pain

Now – let me put it more clear. 

If you’re sensitive to gluten – it won’t affect your joints alone (unless you have an existent joint problem).

However, if your body doesn’t tolerate gluten – this substance could affect your joints (even though you have no related problem).

My Recommendation: The hardest part is to find whether you’re intolerant to gluten or not. There’s no specific test.

So what can you do? Here’s my advice:

  • give up gluten foods for about a week
  • after this time, if you notice an improvement in your pain – you’re probably gluten intolerant
  • if there’s no change – gluten isn’t involved in your joint problem


#14 – Pregnancy

If you’re a woman – you probably know that pregnancy brings lots of changes.

And besides the hormone and mood fluctuations, it can also cause some minor joint pain. 

One thing to mention – joint pain is more common in the last trimester of pregnancy. Here’s why:

  • your body starts producing a hormone called “relaxin” (3)
  • its production increases as your pregnancy goes by
  • this hormone is meant to prepare your body for the process of giving birth
  • for this reason, it makes your joints more and more loose

In this way, every movement becomes more painful. So it’s totally normal – there’s no medical problem.

However, sometimes joint pain can appear in early pregnancy as well. Why? It’s simple:

  • your body produces too much relaxin too early

The good news is that this hormone doesn’t harm you in any way. That’s why there’s no treatment. 

My Recommendation: Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do in this case.

Simply try to relax, sit down for longer and find an activity that will take your mind off the pain.


My Verdict – What’s Causing Your Joint Pain?

It could be a common cause, or it could be something less famous.

But either way, the most important thing is to find the real responsible. Once you do this, your problem is half solved.

To sum up, there are 3 major categories that could be causing your joint pain:

  • medical conditions: arthritis, fibromyalgia, cartilage problems, SI dysfunction, etc.
  • bad habits: alcohol, smoking, lack of movement, unhealthy foods
  • temporary problems: pregnancy, side effects to drugs, deficiencies

So how can you tell what’s causing your joint pain?

Try to narrow down the list to one category – then analyze the possible causes one by one. In this way, it should be easier to find the real cause.


(1) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5717884/

(2) – https://ard.bmj.com/content/61/7/660

(3) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4282454/

Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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2 Responses

  1. Queen says:

    Hi Heather. I found this article very informative and helpful, given that a almost two weeks ago I suddenly developed minor pain on my foot towards my ankles and before 3 to 5 hours it turned into something really serious we had to call the ambulance in. 

    Long story short, I ended up with crutches and painkillers without any specific diagnosis as to the cause of the pain. This felt very strange to me and ever since I have picked interest in any information I can get concerning joints and pain. 

    From what I have read from your article I must say the first one allies with the symptoms I have; Sudden pain, swollen, but in this case it felt cold rather than warm. But I guess it’s the best symptom to describe what I experienced.

    Now I have learnt a lot more on how unhealthy meals can also contribute to things like this, and I am very guilty of that. And will try to work on my diet since I am also overweight.

    In your years of experience, did you ever have someone that experienced something like I did and do you think its this chronic inflammation or something else? As of today, I am trying to take walks without the crutches though not for long distances, as I still experience some pains.

    I know this is not exactly joint pain, but I am hoping you will be able to throw more light on it, if you can.Thanks for your time. Cheers..

  2. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Queen. I don’t really have an explanation, but I personally think you should do more investigations. There could be something serious behind…

    So first of all – your pain appeared out of the sudden and didn’t stop. Within a few hours, it just got impossible to bear.

    That’s surely not a chronic inflammation – if it was, the pain would have appeared gradually and wouldn’t have been so bad from the start. I’m not even sure it’s inflammation behind – but if it is, it’s surely an acute one.

    So you say doctors didn’t find any explanation for your sudden pain? What tests did they have you do? X-rays, blood test, what else?

    You’re right about bad eating habits and being overweight – they can indeed lead to joint pain. But they will never cause this kind of sudden pain – nor such a powerful one. Besides, these are just some risk factors, so they wouldn’t cause pain on their own.

    There’s surely something else behind – and these risk factors only added up.

    So honestly, I can’t give you any advice – because your problem seems totally different from everything I have seen before. 

    But what I advise you to do is to consult another doctor. If your current one didn’t find out the cause, then I think you should see someone else. If the pain didn’t go away completely it means the problem is still there.

    So I don’t want to recommend you any supplement or herbal remedy at this point. The essential thing right now is to find out the real cause behind.

    Once you know it, I can also give you some tips (besides the prescribed treatment). So make sure to visit a doctor ASAP.

    And after you find out what’s the problem behind, please get back to me and let me know. I’m really curious. 

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