What Are the Causes of Joint Pain & Fatigue?


Fatigue is a condition that is characterized by extreme tiredness that is not relieved by rest. Fatigue can be caused by a number of factors, including diseases that create joint pain, report doctors at the University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department. While different people have varying degrees of pain thresholds, constant pain caused by sore or damaged joints invariably causes some level of fatigue in most patients. Diseases that cause fatigue due to joint pain include fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Joints become swollen and inflamed during certain activities, or it can be a chronic condition. The emotional and physical energy it takes to relieve the pain and continue with an activity adds to the fatigue. Painful joints also can prevent patients from getting a solid night's sleep, which only compounds the fatigue.


The breaking down of the fluids between the joints causes rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Initially, the condition is most severe in the morning but gradually worsens so that patients are uncomfortable most of the day, exacerbating states of fatigue. RA affects joints in the hands, wrists and elbows, the shoulders and the neck. In the lower extremities, RA occurs in the hips, knees and ankles as well as the joints in the toes. The constant irritation in the joints releases cytokines into the system, which are a common cause of fatigue. Poor appetites, common among people suffering with the pain of arthritis, add to the level of fatigue. Because of the loss of stamina, people become more fatigued when they reduce the level of their activities as well.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that is primarily characterized by painful joints and fatigue. Although there is little or no swelling or inflammation in the joints, people with fibromyalgia report severe pain in the joints of the neck and shoulder. As the disease progresses, the pain radiates to the entire body and often produces burning, stiff or sore muscles and joints. The fatigue felt by fibromyalgia patients often is even more debilitating than the joint pain. Patients report a lack of energy, decreased endurance levels and exhaustion typically seen in people who are sick with the flu. They are tired even after waking up from a full night's sleep.


Lupus is a rheumatic disease that is caused by an abnormality in the immune system and leading to joint and muscle pain. The disease often is first diagnosed following a period of severe fatigue, weakness and weight loss, and accompanied by a butterfly-shaped rash on the face. Joint pain often is first felt in the hands, wrists, elbows and knees. The joints become swollen or warm and are particularly stiff upon rising in the morning. Some people with lupus suffer from chronic fatigue and joint pain, while others experience periodic flareups of the symptoms.

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