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What causes joint pain?

Natalie E. Azar, MD
Internal Medicine

Joint pain can be caused by a variety of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, endocrine issues (thyroid), vitamin D deficiency and GI illnesses. Watch rheumatologist Natalie Azar, MD, discuss the main causes of joint pain.


If you suffer from stiff, achy joints, you're not alone. Twenty-seven million Americans have osteoarthritis -- leader of the pack when it comes to joint-pain culprits. You can thank other causes, as well, including ligament and tendon damage, muscle tears, excess body weight, age, bad posture, and poor biomechanics.

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Joint pain is a frequent occurrence in overweight patients.  Being overweight causes an uneven distribution of stress on your skeleton that can lead to bone pain, especially in the joints.  As one might expect, the heavier you are the more severe the joint pain may be.  Weight loss is the most important definitive treatment for joint pain but the weight loss must occur prior to the onset of degenerative, weight-related joint disease, which can be irreversible. 

In patients who are morbidly obese, meaning they are 100 lbs or more above their ideal body weight, weight loss surgery is a safe option for controlled weight loss to alleviate joint pain.  Two of the more commonly performed operations – laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic gastric bypass – lead to an excess weight loss of 60 to 70% (i.e. if you are 100 lbs overweight, a patient can expect to lose 60 to 70 lbs after surgery).  In addition, the safety profile of these operations is much greater than that of a standard hip replacement operation.  The mortality of these operations has been reduced to 0.1%, an amazing feat!

Having healthy joints is the key to maintaining an active lifestyle. There are many potential causes of joint pain. The most common causes include:

  • physical injuries such as sprains, fractures, or dislocations;
  • arthritis, including infectious arthritis and gout;
  • autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or Lyme disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.