Joint and osteoarthritic pain: Causes

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Understand joint pain, including osteoarthritis

Joint pain may be acute or chronic and be associated with a multitude of possible aetiologies.1–3

Here we review some of the potential causes of pain emanating from joint tissues.

Person holding back

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of worsening joint pain4,5

Osteoarthritis is characterised by structural changes within the whole joint – as caused by a multitude of pathogenic factors6–8

  • Mechanical: changes in cartilage composition increase its susceptablility to force-induced erosions
  • Metabolic: activation of cell-signalling pathways in response to damage leads to further joint degradation
  • Inflammatory: metabolic activity initiates a proinflammatory response

This complex process ultimately leads to structural destruction and failure of the synovial joint.8

Man with knee pain

Other conditions may also cause joint pain

Aside from osteoarthritis, a range of conditions can cause joint pain. Acute joint pain, for example, may arise from soft-tissue injuries such as sprains and strains, or overuse injuries or infection.2,3,9 Chronic joint pain however, may be associated with conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis or various forms of arthritis.2–4,10

Soft-tissue injuries are a common cause of acute joint pain. These can include sprains occurring during sports, and overuse injuries.9

Risk factors for osteoarthritis

Woman holding her knee

Certain risk factors for osteoarthritis are known

Although the exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, certain factors increase its risk:8,11–13

  • Older age – over 45 years old
  • Being female
  • Increased body weight (particularly affects the knees)
  • Family history of osteoarthritis or bone abnormalities
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Injury or overuse of joints (e.g. in athletes)
  • Previous joint trauma (particularly affects the knees)
  • Muscle weakness

Understanding joint pain and osteoarthritis

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Signs and symptoms

Explore an overview of how to recognise joint pain and osteoarthritis and know when to refer patients.

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Management

Learn how joint pain and osteoarthritis can be managed.

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Helping pharmacy teams manage joint pain effectively

Access editorially independent articles and learning materials created by The Royal Pharmaceutical Society supported by a partnership with GSK.

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Voltarol 12 Hour Joint Pain Relief 2.32% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

All day joint pain relief

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Voltarol Osteoarthritis Joint Pain Relief 1.16% Gel

Voltarol Osteoarthritis Joint Pain Relief 1.16% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

Proven to be as effective as ibuprofen tablets for localised joint pain.14

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Patient care resources

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