Joint and osteoarthritic pain: Causes

Woman holding wrist

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 knee

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

  • Being over 45
  • 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

Signs and symptoms icon

Signs and symptoms

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

Find out more

Management icon


Learn how joint pain and osteoarthritis can be managed.

Find out more

Causes icon

Joint pain: overview

Find out more about joint pain.

Find out more

Learn more

Voltarol joint & back Pain Relief 2.32% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

Voltarol Joint & Back Pain Relief 2.32% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

All day joint pain relief when applied morning and night.

Learn more & PI

Voltarol Osteoarthritis Joint Pain Relief 1.16% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

Voltarol Osteoarthritis Joint Pain Relief 1.16% Gel Diclofenac Diethylammonium

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

Learn more & PI

Patient care resources icon

Patient care resources

Access resources for your patients.

Learn more