10 Unlikely Things That Cause Joint Pain

Joint Pain

When you think of causes of joint pain, most people go immediately to age, too much exercise, injury and arthritis.

However, did you know that these ten things can cause or increase your joint pain?

1. Anxiety. While there are many types, anxiety disorders share a general feature of excessive fear and as a result cause behavioral and functional disturbances. What you may not know is that joint pain is a complex symptom of anxiety. There are many reasons that people who have anxiety feel increased joint pain. Stress inflammation is one of the most common issues inside the body. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are molecules that can be released by many things, one being stress. When you have anxiety you experience long-term stress, and as a result your body continually produces these cytokine molecules. Inflammation caused by these molecules cause your joints to swell and ultimately leads to more pain in your movements.

2. Weather. If you suffer from chronic pain conditions, like arthritis, you may notice that when the pressure in the air changes you feel it in your joints in the form of stiffness or tightness. As the atmospheric pressure drops, tissues in the body may expand and cause more pressure on nerves that control pain signals. Atmospheric pressure drops when a storm system develops. This is why people often claim to be able to tell when a storm is coming because they feel pain in their joints. Another reason that weather affects your joints is that temperature changes can cause fluctuations in fluid levels, which can lessen the lubrication of the joints, therefore causing increased inflammation and pain. Lastly, when the weather gets warmer, you are more likely to become dehydrated. The joint cartilage in our bodies has a high water content so when your body loses fluid and is not replenished, dehydration can occur. Without that fluid in your joints, you are more susceptible to degeneration and damage of your joints.

3. Lack of Exercise. Staying active is one of the most important things you can do to combat joint pain and arthritis. I know it may sound counterintuitive, since moving often makes your joints hurt, why would you do it? Limiting your movements will weaken your muscles. So, by exercising you strengthen the muscles near your joints and increase your range of motion and flexibility.

4. Vitamin D Deficiency. A simple vitamin deficiency may be causing your joint pain. It can be difficult to reach your recommended vitamin D intake, especially if you don’t make an active effort to get outside or eat a balanced diet. Researchers say that the longer you are deficient in vitamin D, the worse your joint pain will get. Eventually, you can develop arthritis or bone problems. Just 10-20 minutes of natural sunlight may give you the Vitamin D you need. However, if you can’t get outside, other sources of vitamin D are foods such as salmon, mushrooms, tuna, and egg yolks. Supplements are also a great way to get your daily vitamin D intake.

5. Food Allergies. While food allergies are quite common in children and often inherited, in some cases you can develop allergic reactions toward a certain food later in life. Allergic reactions occur when your immune system overreacts towards a particular food. One of the symptoms of an allergic reaction is inflammation, which ultimately causes your joints to hurt.

6. Seasonal Allergies. Joint pain is unavoidable when allergies cause inflammation. During allergy season some people suffer from inflammation because your body is working hard to flush out the foreign allergens (pollen, dust, nuts, mold and bee venom). As a result, this inflammation causes pain in your joints. Your body is very fatigued from trying to fight off the allergens and this may cause your joint pain to feel worse. Coughing, sneezing, and wheezing may also cause you to suffer from muscle, joint and neck pain. Click here to learn about how to manage your seasonal allergies to avoid joint pain.

7. Smoking Cigarettes. By now, you know that smoking cigarettes causes many negative health benefits. Add joint pain to that list! Smoking is addictive because nicotine causes the body to release dopamine, which makes you feel good. It tricks the body into feeling less pain at first however, when that feeling wears off the pain is often worse. Cigarettes also affect the body’s circulatory system and inhibit nutrients from flowing to the muscles and joints. Since your muscles help to protect your joints, when they are not receiving the proper nutrients your joints are more susceptible to pain. Back pain and neck pain are also common in smokers because of the coughing symptom that many smokers experience.

8. Obesity. Obesity means that a person’s body weight is 20% higher than it should be, and they have a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Added weight puts more pressure on your joints. Each pound of weight that you gain adds 4 pounds of pressure to your knee joints. This is why obesity is such a major risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis and joint pain.

9. Alcohol. Alcohol forces your body to lose water and therefore dehydrates your ligament and tissues. Since your joints rely heavily on having sufficient fluids to move smoothly and function properly, insufficient fluids in your joints can cause agonizing pain. Drink in moderation to minimize dehydration and to allow your joints to function normally!

10. Depression. Depression is defined as sadness, not being interested in daily activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, low energy levels, inability to concentrate, thoughts of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and recurrent ideas of death or suicide. Studies show that depression lowers your pain tolerance level and weakens a person’s ability to deal and cope with pain. Since people with depression are unable to deal with their joint pain, they are less likely to stick to their treatment regimens and maintain a healthy lifestyle. A 2016 study measured the CRP levels (a blood test marker for inflammation) of 10,036 people. Of those people who showed symptoms of depression, CRP levels were 31% higher than those with no depressive symptoms. So, there is a developing theory that inflammation may also be directly linked to depression.

41 responses to “10 Unlikely Things That Cause Joint Pain

  1. I have a friend whose been struggling with joint pain for years and has gone to tons of doctors and they still cant’t figure it out. Is there a way I can know it’s one of these?

    1. I had an experienced myself, but I am not sure if it will be the case for your friend. I was an overthinker and I was always thinking about something that haven’t happened yet, and I would think a lot of cases and scenarios in that situation. It was about four years that I was so overwhelming and I got an hip joint pain without knowing the cause was, I went to multiples clinics and meet with some doctors to discuss my situation but nothing really help. The pain was about 5 years long, I started to join the session to express my thought to the public; it was like throwing all of your thought out of your brains. I practicing deep breath methods and avoid being alone so I was always going out or make something up for myself to do. Anyway the pain won’t go off right away, I need to do that often and daily to make my overall health better. But now, there is still some pain but it was not so painful as it was before. I do hope that my case would help your friend or people out there who read this.

      1. I recently was experiencing excruciating back and hip pain. I was also drinking A LOT of Mt. Dew. I decided to do my own little experiment. I’ve been soda free for less than two weeks and my hip and back pain is nearly gone. Yes, I have lost about 3 pounds. But I doubt that 3 pounds would significantly lower my pain that dramatically. I still have my one cup of coffee daily. I’m thinking it’s the acid. Maybe try this?

  2. Hi Tom,
    I am in the same situation and I’m at a dead end! I have been to very specialist possible with NO diagnosis!
    May I ask has your friend been diagnosed with anything yet?
    Thank you in advance for your response!

    1. Have you heard of CIRS!
      Might want to look into it. Most misdiagnosed. If you have had an exposure to bacteria and or toxins or mold or Lyme it will cause these issues. With also several other symptoms that you may not consider to be linked with something like that

  3. Based on my personal experience, I got soo stressed for a period of time and slight anxiety plus depression. I got rheumatoid arthritis after few months of stress. Also I have chronic urticaria many years ago. So when I was stressed, I have my urticaria flared up plus RA. I asked my dermatologist about my urticaria he said my RA and urticaria are linked and it is not curable. The only way is to keep taking anti histamine when symptoms flare up.

  4. Food allergies have caused a ton of problems for me since I reached 50. Nightshade fruits and vegetables gave me arthritis. So did artificial sweeteners. I also have gluten sensitivity which messes with your hormones. I tried Stevia for a sweetener but found out later it is in the same genus as ragweed. It is a constant hit and miss. Good luck. Doctors haven’t helped me much either. I would suggest a full workup of allergy tests if you haven’t had one. At least you can know what to avoid.

  5. I just got testing done, nothing there to indicate anything is wrong. I suspect 3 things may have caused this sudden onset of joint pain. For the record I have osteoarthritis/wear and tear, from overworking the joint on my fight shoulder. Later I got a hip impingement on left hip (right being dominate and with probably slightly more surrounding muscle). But finding the right job and not aggravating with of these, it was like I didn’t have either. I now suspect corn/popcorn or pollen or weather/barametric pressure. I’m leaning towards pollen, as it has been bothering me badly for 3 years now. I thought I had the flu first 2 years. This year, different location so differing pollen, so no flu this time, hay fever type symptoms, but mega joint pain – all of them! What the heck. Guess I’ll have to wait for next year to see if it happens at pollen time again.

  6. Have you been checked by an infectious disease specialist for a parasite? I had idiopathic chronic urticaria for 2 straight years couple with a ton of other problems (including intense joint pain) that would come and go. After 60+ drs I found the right one. Turns out I had schistosomiasis.

  7. I’m 36 with complex PTSD and Dissociation and recently I started having joint pain and knee and ankle pain and sometimes even my toes don’t want to work. Well after being online for weeks and I think I just might have to check with my Dr. , a friend is the one who asked if it was my anxiety causing the pain.

  8. I developed arthritis rather suddenly, in both knees. I have been under incredible stress for the past few years, as my husband has cancer. I never knew stress could cause this type of “reaction” in the body-and I’m an RN! Surprise, surprise…

    1. I’m not sure if this applies to you, but breast implant illness (BII) causes autoimmune symptoms like joint pain as well.
      I’m just spreading the knowledge!

  9. I’ve suffered with stress and depression for years and when I began having joint pain my GP immediately took the view that it was all in my mind. I didn’t agree but got the usual (for the UK anyway) response of ‘you’re not dying so go away’. I’ve struggled on, being of little use to anyone and with no help or diagnosis other than ‘the mind is a wonderful thing…’ So helpful. I now have imaginary (well, they must be) lumps on my fingers and deformed toes, which Dr.Google tells me indicated advanced arthritis, but doubtless my lovely ‘real’ doctor would say don’t exist. Found this site tonight sitting up in bed unable to sleep because of the pain in my hips. I still don’t know if it’s imaginary or not or what to do to help myself. Haven’t seen a doctor in years now. Stopped going out at all six years ago. But hey, the good news is I’m not dying. So that’s alright.

  10. Jerri it’s not in your head. I believe you. You need to see a specialist if you can. Your doctor should not be practicing medicine as far as I’m concerned. Get a second or third opinion if you can!

  11. Maybe check if it could be Fibromyalgia. It cannot be detected by blood test. Causes lots of body and joint paint, fatigue, maybe depression and host of other symptoms.

    1. How do you know? My fingers are in so much pain? Couldn’t have bone infusion, had breast Cancer, and I’m so very grateful I’m herexx But if my fingers are bent the opposite way??? Have i got my dad’s rhoumarthis? Or another? Arthritis?

  12. I had joint and muscle pain for years. A dietician suggested that it may be a food sensitivity. I didn’t believe this but did an elimination diet anyway. Turned out I have a gluten sensitivity. When I avoid all wheat products I feel great but as soon as I start eating them the joint and muscle pain return with a vengeance. I don’t have any GI symptoms from gluten/wheat, just the pain. This may be the culprit for your friend?

  13. 6 month after moving to CA for work, I (35 year-old man) started having tendon pain (+tendinitis) and joint pain all over my body (fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, jaw, neck) (it is now 10 months), flare happen with small movement (unlike arthritis which flares happen during rest). I cannot walk more than a few steps or carry anything of weight more than 1-2 lbs, or my feet and hands’ tendons inflame and get painful. Fingers and hands swelled all the time. Weird pink-ish rash on hands. Vascular inflammation of the hands. All the joints started to click as well.

    I visited 8+ specialists and 100+ blood tests and 2 MRIs + 4 xRay + CT and still no diagnosis (and no prescription to reduce my pain or help me to walk). Everything (but MRIs) look normal. Many of the doctors tried to convince me that my pains are inside my mind. Then I showed them my hand swelling, rashes, vein bulging, MRI images showing damage to knee joints and hand tendonitis… and they dismissed me saying we don’t know what it is.

    Now another Dr is saying it is just stress. I am not convinced stress could cause this much physical damage and tendon inflammation, vasculitis, and swelling.

    1. Hadi I have a similar experience — joint and tendon pain in fingers wrist, shoulder, hip, knees, ankles, plantar fasciitis
      In my last visit, 6 months ago, with a rheumatologist, he couldn’t diagnose because all my symptoms were internal.

      Then I noticed obviously swelling in finger joints, I went to see the doctor again and he was immediately concerned. He diagnosed as Inflammatory Polyarthritis and said it could progress to autoimmune diseases in the same family if not treated (psoriasis, spinal arthritis). Currently waiting for insurance to approve use of Humira (I’m wary because it’s an immuno-suppressive drug, but the quick progression in my join pain is even more worrying, I even have a hard time focusing on work). Doctor says it’s ok to take Advil in the meantime since it’s an NSAID, though I’m having to take more pills a day since it’s not as effective as it used to be :(
      My doctor is actually having me do bloodwork and imaging labs after he diagnosed, it’s weird how different doctors can be!

      Hopefully this can help you find another doctor that can treat and diagnose you.

    2. Hey Hadi,

      I have a very similar thing but not diagnosed yet, can I ask what happened in the end did you find out the problem?

  14. I head something similar untill an unexpected thing helped me, namely, swimming in cold water. I did it last Oktober and joints were normal after 5 times of swimming for 5 min in 10 to 15 C water. This was not at all why I did it, but it was very much helpfull. My doctor said that yes, it would happen as such shock would reprogram autoimmune responce.

  15. What all of this has caused me to realize , and pardon the pun, is that all these so called arthritic pains can have a multitude of causes, original triggers, and methods of treatment. It is an enormously wide area of medicine :- therefore study, cross study in many disciplines necessary.
    I was professional ballet dander, so my pain and symptoms were attributed to overuse. But I see now how closely my symptoms are activated by a variety of conditions as mentioned earlier. I must not forget, though, that physical changes caused by the inflammation of joints and reduction of cartilage certainly cause pain.

  16. im glad im not alone im getting increased joint pain in shoulders one of which is diagnosed as a frozen shoulder and my knees are very painful to and to top it all a burning awful pain in my thigh which keeps me awake my doctors have been no help end of my tether

  17. Hi I am Robert ,
    Can y’all recommend a doctor I have severe pain I don’t know know what’s my problem I have joint problem inside my shoulders people say Robert go-to the pool swim hit the hot tub but when I do it makes the pain worse it’s a dull pain that’s intense my wife is worried I spent the other night moaning from the pain and people say what I have ain’t arthritis cause these things would help if it was I been getting scared the pain can be extremely intense I keep looking up online what my problem could be and it refers me to arthritis and last time I saw the doctor for it they claimed it was arthritic pain but didn’t specify what kind arthritic pain from what I’ve read there’s more than a 100 types of arthritis I live in frost proof Florida nearest cities lake whales, Avon park, Sebring, and Winter Haven I just need to get this identified and maybe some how get some relief I am at my wits end I don’t know who to turn too or what’s going on to cause this pain it really makes it hard to be my chipper ole self with this going on and I’d love to be my old self

  18. I have generalized anxiety and 6 years ago had a very hard time, usually I can control myself and not need medication, but those days were horrible, one of my symptoms was joint pain, started in my wrist, then my hand and after a week all my joints were hurting, not so bad but very exhausting. I took control of my mental health again and it disappeared, now I’m having another episode of anxiety and the joint pain is back, the same pattern, wrist, hand and whole body. So I can tell you can be the reason.

  19. After many years of on and off joint pain and fatigue, I have come to learn that it can be many things at play. The things that helped me is understanding how inflammation in one area can trigger inflammation in another. When I have a copd flare it triggers arthritis flare. Long term stress can put your vagus nerve system to sleep and misappropriates pain signals. LEARN about the vagus nerve. Take a good magnesium powder at night. The gut has EVERYTHING to do with the health of your body including making seratonin so learn how to nourish it. A big one – keep away from negative people. Never drink tap water and top it all off with a talk to Jesus…

    1. Some places, like Seattle, have very good tap water. I prefer it to drinking from a plastic container. Thanks for bring up the vagus nerve. I try disciplining my negative thoughts, and naturally avoid negativity of others. A little less news helps. XOX

  20. I’m a nurse and work 12 hr night shifts. Iv don’t this for 2 yrs. Ya I’ll have normal aches and pains then have a day or 2 off and everything was better . But I had been having really bad left knee pain and thought maybe I strained it and it would go away after a few days. But things haven gotten much worse it went from on knee down. To my ankle to my other knee and ankle to now my shoulders and hips. Iv called my doctor and she’s like well uv been working alot u probably need some time off. So I took a week off work. Just to relax and I still hurt almost as bad as I do working a 12 hr shift on my feet. Ya iv got a ton of stress and I do have pretty bad anxiety but iv learned to cope with it with out meds. But reading all of ur posts I’m really thinking it’s stress with how fast this pain hit and processed. Good luck everyone and know ur not alone.

      1. My husbands does! and he has what his doctor claims is RA appear over night. He got a rash and soar throat and then the pain in his wrists started. It’s been 2 months now of steroids, methotrexate, anvil and Tylenol and I’m not sure he even has arthritis

  21. Hi there, can anybody help please? I (54, male) have pain and tension on right side of my body, now getting worse especially at night and mainly right lower rib cage but sometimes traveling to other parts. I have lots of tension and stress for many years and went to several doctors they cant find anything. I live overseas and am now considering MRI (bone cancer?), arthritis doc or whatever may shed light on this. If you have any ideas please share with me because I am at the end of my right, feeling scared and alone overseas. I am really glad I found this group and hopefully somebody can give me a hint on what else I could do.

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