Joint pain and weakness can be caused by a number of conditions, including acute injuries, infections, and chronic diseases. The outlook depends on the underlying cause.

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Joint pain is a common symptom that can range from mild to severe. It commonly affects areas of the body such as the knees, shoulders, hips, feet, hands, and elbows.

Some conditions can cause joint pain and weakness together. Body weakness is a decrease in muscle strength. It can make it difficult to move your arms, legs, or other muscles. Fatigue or tiredness often accompanies weakness.

There are many possible causes of joint pain and weakness, from injury to chronic, long-term conditions. Here’s what you need to know about common causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Learn more about joint pain and weakness.

A variety of conditions can cause joint pain and weakness.

Some causes are short-term, such as physical injuries like sprains and strains. Other causes are long-term, such as chronic inflammation from arthritis.

Here are some possible causes.

Injuries like sprains and strains are common causes of joint pain and weakness.

These injuries can happen when you overstretch a muscle or ligament during physical activity, such as exercise or contact sports.

Symptoms can include pain, tenderness, or weakness in your ankle, foot, wrist, knee, or leg. You may also experience swelling, bruising, or cramping in the area.

Treatment for strains and sprains can include RICE:

  • rest
  • ice
  • compression
  • elevation

Other treatment options include over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain relief medications.

Flu

Common symptoms of flu (influenza) include sneezing, sore throat, and stuffy nose, but it can also cause muscle or body aches, chills, fatigue, and weakness.

Most people who get the flu recover in several days or less than 2 weeks, although some people can develop serious complications.

In most cases, staying home, resting, and drinking fluids can help you recover.

People with severe illness or who have a greater risk of serious complications may be treated with prescription antiviral medications.

COVID-19

COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body aches

In addition to respiratory tract issues, COVID-19 can affect the musculoskeletal system. This can lead to symptoms such as joint pain and muscle weakness. In some people, these symptoms may persist for months.

Most people with mild illness from COVID-19 can recover at home with rest. Treatment for more serious illnesses can include antiviral medications.

Arthritis is a group of conditions that cause inflammation or swelling in one or more joints. Common symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and stiffness.

If you’re less active because of joint pain, you may develop muscle weakness due to a lack of use.

Common types of arthritis that can cause joint pain and muscle or ligament weakness include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment for arthritis can involve:

  • a combination of medications
  • supplements
  • physical therapy
  • lifestyle changes

Neuropathy is tingling, pain, or numbness in nerves in your extremities — like your fingers, hands, or feet. Diabetes is a main cause of neuropathy.

Diabetes

Over time, high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can lead to nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy.

Nerve damage can cause symptoms ranging from mild numbness to muscle weakness and joint pain. Nearly half of all people with diabetes develop nerve damage.

Treatment for nerve damage depends on the type of neuropathy and may include lifestyle changes, prescription medications, or complementary therapies.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the body.

Common symptoms of lupus include joint pain and muscle aches or pains. Less commonly, some people with lupus may experience inflammation in the muscles (myositis), which can lead to muscle weakness.

Treatment for lupus may include prescription medications and lifestyle changes.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a gradual decline in the kidney’s ability to filter waste from the blood.

Advanced CKD can lead to muscle weakness, cramps, and pain. Kidney disease is also a common cause of gout, which can lead to acute arthritis and symptoms such as joint pain and swelling.

Although CKD is chronic and irreversible, treatments such as medications and lifestyle changes can help improve underlying disease and prevent and manage complications.

Hepatitis C is a viral condition that causes inflammation of the liver. It’s transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, such as from intravenous drug use with shared needles, blood transfusions, or condomless sex.

About 70% of people who contract the virus develop chronic hepatitis C, which can cause symptoms such as:

  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain

Hepatitis C can also cause arthritis, leading to joint inflammation, muscle pain, and weakness.

Chronic hepatitis C affects an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States. Treatment for hepatitis C includes antiviral medications and lifestyle changes.

The outlook for joint pain and weakness depends on what is causing your symptoms.

Physical injuries such as strains and sprains typically heal within 2–8 weeks. More severe injuries may take longer to heal.

Most people with infections such as flu or COVID-19 recover within 2–4 weeks. People who have a higher risk of serious complications may take longer to recover or need treatment in a hospital.

Chronic conditions like osteoarthritis or CKD require long-term treatment and management. These conditions often involve a team of healthcare professionals to help address different aspects of care.

Many different conditions can cause joint pain and weakness together.

Causes can include injuries like sprains and strains, infections like flu or COVID-19, and chronic conditions like arthritis or autoimmune disorders.

If you’re concerned about joint pain and weakness, talk with your doctor to learn more about the underlying cause and effective treatment strategies.