Joint pain and osteoarthritis: Causes

Woman holding back

Understand joint pain and 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.

Woman holding back

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

Osteoarthritis is characterised by structural changes within the whole joint, and is caused by a multitude of pathogenic factors:6–8

  • Mechanical: changes in cartilage composition increase its susceptibility 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, 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

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 are known to increase its risk:8,11–13

  • Older age
  • Female gender
  • 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

Find out how to recognise joint pain and osteoarthritis and understand when to refer patients.

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Learn how joint pain and osteoarthritis can be managed.

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Sprains and strains icon

Overview of sprains and strains

Learn more about sprains and strains, and meet two patients with these conditions.

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Voltaren Osteo Gel 12 Hourly

Voltaren Osteo Gel 12 Hourly with easy open cap

Up to 12 hours relief from mild osteoarthritis flare-up pain.14

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Panadol Osteo

Panadol Osteo

Provides relief of osteoarthritis pain for up to 8 hours.15,16

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Patient care resources

Download resources for your patients.

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