Why do I have joint pain and stiffness all over my body?

joint pain and stiffness all over body
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key takeaways

  1. Joint pain and stiffness in the body can be caused due to different causes, including Autoimmune diseases (Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus Ethmatosus), infections, anxiety, stress, and medications. 
  2. Over-the-counter medications can help in giving temporary relief for the joint pain. Getting a medical consultation for the correct diagnosis of the underlying condition and prescription medication is beneficial. 

Overview

Does all your joints suddenly hurt, and you don’t know why? Joints are the key organs that hold the bones in your body together. If all your joints hurt suddenly, you may have inflammation or infection causing the pain. This inflammation can be due to various reasons, from autoimmune diseases to stress or anxiety. Depending upon the accurate diagnosis, the treatment of joint pain can also vary from low-strength over-the-counter medications to higher-strength prescription-only options. 

What are the causes of joint pain?

There are different causes of joint pain. Here are all the possible reasons why all your joints hurt suddenly: 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, often referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis, stands as the primary cause of joint discomfort. This condition manifests when the protective cartilage cushioning the joints undergoes degradation.

Treatment

  • Weight Management and Exercise: Shedding excess weight and engaging in regular physical activity can alleviate symptoms significantly.
  • Physical Therapy: Tailored exercises and therapies prescribed by a physiotherapist can offer considerable relief.
  • Medications: Prescription and OTC pain relievers (Naproxen, Ibuprofen) and anti-inflammatory creams or gels (Diflonec or Voltaren) can help manage pain.
  • Medical Interventions: In severe cases, medical interventions such as cortisone injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, or hyaluronic acid injections may be recommended to alleviate pain and improve joint function. 

Tendon Injuries (Tendinitis)

The second leading cause of joint pain stems from injuries to the tendons, ranging from inflammation and swelling to partial or complete tears.

Treatment

  • Pain Medication: Initially, rest and use over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, naproxen, sodium, and acetaminophen to manage discomfort and inflammation.
  • Injections: Depending on the severity, steroid cortisone injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy may be recommended to aid in the healing process.
  • Surgical Intervention: Surgical repair may be necessary in severe tendon tears, particularly in athletes.
  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation through physical therapy can assist in strengthening surrounding muscles, reducing strain on the injured tendon, and promoting recovery. 
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Ligament Injuries 

Ligament injuries represent another common source of joint discomfort, especially affecting the knees and ankles. Ligaments are fibrous tissues connecting bones, and trauma, such as a forceful impact, is typically the underlying cause.

Treatment

  • Bracing: For minor ligament injuries, wearing a brace may provide support and stability while the ligament heals.
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen, ketoprofen, and ibuprofen or prescription pain reliefs like sulindac is given to patients with ligament injuries.  
  • Medical Evaluation: Seek medical attention to assess the extent of the ligament injury and determine the appropriate course of action.
  • Surgical Repair: Severe ligament tears may necessitate surgical intervention to restore stability and function to the joint.
  • Rehabilitation: Following treatment, rehabilitation through physical therapy can aid in restoring strength, flexibility, and range of motion to the affected joint.

Gout

Gout, a prevalent and agonizing form of arthritis, occurs when uric acid accumulates in the bloodstream. This excess uric acid then crystallizes within the joints, causing intense pain and inflammation.

Treatment

  • Dietary Modifications: Individuals with gout should steer clear of alcohol, red meat, and shellfish, as these can exacerbate symptoms by increasing uric acid levels.
  • Medication: If dietary changes alone are insufficient in managing symptoms, healthcare providers may prescribe medications like Allopurinol, Colchicine, corticosteroids, indomethacin, and NSAIDs to lower uric acid levels in the blood, thereby reducing the frequency and severity of gout attacks.

Injured Meniscus

An injury to the meniscus, the cartilage within the knee responsible for cushioning and stabilizing the joint, frequently leads to knee discomfort. While sports-related activities commonly result in meniscal injuries, arthritis within the knee can also contribute to painful tears in the meniscus.

Treatment

  • Medications: For acute pain, your doctor may suggest NSAIDs available over the counter or their higher strength formulation upon prescription, like naproxen. Other prescription medications include hydrocodone to ease the inflammation. 
  • Surgical Intervention: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or remove the damaged portion of the meniscus, particularly for significant tears.
  • Conservative Treatment: Physical therapy can aid in strengthening surrounding muscles and improving joint stability, while cortisone or hyaluronic acid injections may help alleviate pain and inflammation.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases disrupt the body’s immune system, causing it to attack healthy cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation in specific areas. Several autoimmune diseases target the joints, leading to stiffness and joint pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease primarily affecting the joints of the hands and feet. Prolonged rheumatoid arthritis can lead to deformities in the bones of the hands and feet, characterized by bent curvature. Inflammation of the affected joints causes pain and stiffness.

Medications

For treating rheumatoid arthritis, your doctors may prescribe medications like Methotrexate which is the first line of treatment. Other medications include: 

  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Corticosteroids
  • Sulfasalazine
  • Azathioprine
  • Abatacept

Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus is another autoimmune inflammatory disease that induces stiffness and pain throughout the body. This serious medical condition prompts the immune system to attack healthy body tissues, resulting in extreme fatigue, limited mobility, and widespread pain. Diagnosis often involves various medical tests, with a distinctive indication of a red patch resembling butterfly wings on one or both cheeks.

Medications

For the treatment of lupus erythematosus, the first line of treatment includes 

Other medication options include NSAIDs, analgesics, corticosteroids, and antimalarials like hydroxychloroquine.

Other Autoimmune Disorders

Various autoimmune disorders can also cause widespread pain and stiffness in the body. Some conditions trigger inflammation in specific areas, such as: 

  • Polymyalgia rheumatica (inflammation around hips and shoulders)
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis (affecting the spine and large joints)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (damage to nerve coverings)

Treatment

  • Medication: Depending on the severity and type of autoimmune disease, medication may be prescribed to manage symptoms and suppress immune system activity, such as NSAIDs, Infliximab, Certolizumab, Celecoxib, Naproxen, Diclofenac
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Staying active can help alleviate joint stiffness caused by autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Medication may sometimes be necessary to address flare-ups and manage symptoms effectively.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, occurs as pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. The capsule connecting the two bones of the shoulder, facilitating movement in the ball and socket joint, can become inflamed, resulting in significant discomfort. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience a noticeable limitation in shoulder mobility.

Treatment

  • Steroid Injections: In cases of frozen shoulder, steroid injections may be administered to alleviate inflammation and reduce pain.
  • Hydrodilatation: Some doctors opt for hydrodilatation, a procedure involving injecting a significant amount of sterile fluid into the shoulder joint capsule to expand it. This can expedite the restoration of shoulder motion.
  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation through physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing a frozen shoulder. Therapeutic exercises and techniques can help improve shoulder mobility and reduce stiffness over time. 

COVID-19

COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is an infectious illness that can present a range of symptoms, including joint pain, body aches, fever, cough, and fatigue. Most individuals infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without the need for medical intervention. However, severe long-term complications, such as blood clots, heart failure, neurological conditions, and organ damage, can occur, particularly in high-risk groups such as older adults, individuals with chronic conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.

Treatment

  • Vaccination: Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended for everyone eligible, especially those at higher risk of severe illness and complications.
  • Testing and Antiviral Treatment: Individuals experiencing symptoms should seek testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible. Early detection allows for immediate initiation of antiviral treatment, which can help manage symptoms and reduce the severity of the illness.
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What are the risk factors for joint pain?

If you’ve experienced joint pain, your body may signal underlying issues. Here are five risk factors associated with joint pain that may contribute to the problem:

1. Overweight or Obesity

Excess body weight strains joints, leading to swelling, stiffness, and pain. This strain is particularly notable in older adults, whose age-related changes in muscles, bones, and cartilage increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis—a prevalent form of arthritis causing pain, stiffness, and reduced joint movement over time.

2. Inactivity

Lack of physical activity contributes to weakened muscles surrounding joints, diminishing support, and increasing susceptibility to injury and pain. Prolonged inactivity also fosters poor posture, elevating stress on specific joints like the lower back, neck, hip, and knee.

3. Genetics

Genetic predispositions play a role in joint pain risk. A family history of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may heighten individual susceptibility. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advisable for managing symptoms and preventing complications.

4. Injury

Joint pain often stems from injuries affecting the joint’s ligaments, tendons, or cartilage. Sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures are common injuries leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness, necessitating medical evaluation and treatment.

5. Old Age

Advanced age increases the likelihood of joint pain due to wear and tear on joints. Age-related changes, including decreased bone density and weakened cartilage, contribute to pain and swelling. Osteoarthritis, characterized by bone spurs and cartilage loss, is prevalent among older individuals, further exacerbating joint discomfort.

What symptoms of joint pain are cause for concern?

Symptoms of joint pain can vary, but certain indicators may warrant further attention:

1. Pain and Tenderness

Pain, often the initial symptom of joint issues, may occur as soreness upon light pressure or specific movements. Persistent pain lasting beyond a week or two warrants consultation with a healthcare professional for appropriate treatment.

2. Joint Swelling

Inflammation may cause noticeable swelling around affected joints, leading to puffiness and redness, particularly in areas affected by arthritis.

3. Stiffness

Some forms of arthritis can result in stiffness and challenging joint movement, particularly in the morning. Prolonged stiffness lasting over 30 minutes may indicate underlying issues requiring medical assessment.

4. Redness and Warmth

Redness and warmth in the joint area may signal infection, such as septic arthritis, caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream and infecting arthritic joints. 

5. Loss of Range of Motion

Decreased range of motion due to stiffness and inflammation can reduce movement and affect daily activities.

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When should I see a doctor?

Consult a doctor for joint pain if you experience persistent pain lasting more than a week or two, swelling, stiffness, redness, warmth in the joint area, or a loss of range of motion. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain becomes intense, the joint suddenly inflates or deforms, or you can no longer use the joint at all. If you suspect COVID-19 infection, adhere to local health authority guidelines for testing and consult a doctor accordingly.

FAQs

Can sudden joint pain be a sign of a serious medical condition?

Yes, sudden joint pain can signal serious underlying conditions, including infections, gout, and certain autoimmune disorders. It may also indicate complications following an illness, such as post-viral syndrome or reactive arthritis.

How long does sudden joint pain typically last?

It may go away after a few weeks (acute) or last for several weeks or months (chronic). Even short-term joint pain and swelling can affect your quality of life. Whatever the cause of joint pain, you can usually manage it with medication, physical therapy, or alternative treatments.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  1. Gooberman‐Hill, Rachael, et al. “Assessing chronic joint pain: lessons from a focus group study.” Arthritis Care & Research 57.4 (2007): 666-671.
  2. Mazzuca, Steven A., et al. “Pilot study of the effects of a heat‐retaining knee sleeve on joint pain, stiffness, and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology 51.5 (2004): 716-721.
  3. Fenlon, Deborah, et al. “A survey of joint and muscle aches, pain, and stiffness comparing women with and without breast cancer.” Journal of pain and symptom management 46.4 (2013): 523-535.

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