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To help your joints feel better, sometimes you need to understand the root of the issue.

Your body is full of joints: knees, elbows, shoulders, hips, and hundreds of smaller ones. And here’s the thing about them: They work so well that you don’t really pay much attention to them until they start to hurt. Unfortunately, once a joint begins to ache, it’s hard to think of anything else. You’re going to wonder what you can do to feel better and what you did to bring on the pain in the first place. But just like there are many different kinds of joints in your body, there are many different reasons they can start to hurt. Here are some of the top causes:

Sports injury: Being active is great for your health—unless you somehow hurt yourself. If you exercise regularly, chances are you’re going to experience joint pain at some point. Sometimes it’s caused by overuse or repetitive motions, like when your knee starts hurting after playing basketball or your elbow feels painful after a lot of tennis. Other times you might have sprained a ligament or strained a muscle near the joint, both of which can bring on the pain.

Inflammation: A condition called bursitis is when the small fluid-filled sacs around a joint become inflamed. Any joint that you move the same way over and over again can become inflamed, but the most common areas for it to happen are shoulder, elbow, and hip. Think back to see if maybe you knelt for a long time on a hard surface or were painting and moved your arm repetitively up and down a wall.

Arthritis: Both of the most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, cause joint pain. For people with osteoarthritis, the cartilage in joints breaks down, which means bones aren’t as protected and can rub against each other when you move. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually a disease of the immune system, which attacks the lining of the joints and causes pain.

Other health conditions: There are many other diseases and health issues that can cause your joints to hurt, including lupus, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism.If you have unexplained joint pain that doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor to find out what’s really going on.


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