Joints Pain (Arthralgia) is a symptom of injury, infection, illnesses (in particular arthritis) or an allergic reaction to medication. The term "arthralgia" should only be used when the condition is non-inflammatory, and the term "arthritis" should be used when the condition is inflammatory. Arthralgia is pain in one or more of your joints. The pain may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing, and may range in intensity from mild to severe. There are many causes of arthralgia, including injury, infection, arthritis, and other ailments. The most common cause is arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints. There are many different types of arthritis. Treatment for arthralgia will vary depending on the joint that is affected, the severity of the pain, and the underlying cause. Treatment will address the underlying cause and alleviate or manage symptoms. Minor arthralgia can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications that reduce pain and swelling, or by icing, taking warm baths, or stretching.

Causes of Joints Pain (Arthralgia)

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), commonly used as adjuvant therapy for postmenopausal women with early stage, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, can cause arthralgia, as can taxane chemotherapy drugs, such as paclitaxel and docetaxel, and drugs that stimulate white blood cell production, such as filgrastim. About half of women taking AIs experience arthralgia. The incidence of taxane-related arthralgia varies, with studies reporting that docetaxel causes more pain than paciltaxel. AI-related arthralgia often appears about two months after starting therapy, but can also begin up to two years later. Symptoms can diminish or resolve within several months or persist until AI therapy is stopped. Taxane-induced arthralgia usually begins 24 to 48 hours after infusion and can last for three to five days, occasionally lingering for a week or longer.

Symptoms and Consequences of Joints Pain (Arthralgia)

The term arthralgia means “joint pain,” whereas arthritis is a disease that causes joint inflammation, which can in turn cause joint pain and stiffness. Arthralgia can be accompanied by symptoms such as joint stiffness, aches, muscle pain (myalgia) and inflammation, such as swelling, tenderness and redness around the joint. This pain can affect only one joint or area, or it may affect multiple joints. The pain can be mild or severe, and it can last for a few minutes, come and go, or be constant. Joint pain or stiffness is often worse upon waking or after long periods of inactivity and can improve with movement. Treatment-related arthralgia can cause new pain or exacerbate preexisting joint pain. The exact physiology of arthralgia is unclear and may involve several different mechanisms depending on the drug and the individual. Therefore, the symptoms and time course can be highly variable. Common areas of joint pain or discomfort include the hands (fingers and wrists), arms, knees, feet, pelvic and hip bones, shoulders and back. Arthralgia can make it difficult to perform normal activities, interfere with sleep, and diminish quality of life and day-to-day well-being. Importantly, studies show that joint pain is the main reason women stop AI therapy early.

Management Strategies

Mild pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can provide partial or complete relief of moderate joint and muscle pain. More severe or persistent pain may require the addition of stronger pain relievers, such as acetaminophen combined with either codeine or oxycodone for short-term relief, corticosteroids, such as prednisone and dexamethasone, or antidepressants, such as Effexor (venlafaxine) or Cymbalta (duloxetine).

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