What Is Polyarthralgia?

Medically reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP on May 2, 2017Written by Neel Duggal on May 2, 2017

Overview

People with polyarthralgia may have transient, intermittent, or persistent pain in multiple joints. Polyarthralgia has many different underlying causes and possible treatments. Keep reading to learn more about this condition.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary from mild to moderate, and may include:

  • pain and tenderness in joints
  • tingling or other unusual sensations
  • burning feeling at the joint
  • joint stiffness or difficulty moving your joints

Polyarthralgia is similar to polyarthritis, which also causes pain in multiple joints. The main difference is that polyarthritis causes inflammation to the joints, whereas there is no inflammation with polyarthralgia.

Learn more: Arthritis vs. Arthralgia »

Polyarthralgia also shares some similarities with polymyalgia. Both conditions cause similar levels of pain. It’s also possible to have both conditions at the same time. Polyarthralgia affects the joints, while polymyalgia affects the muscles around the joints. Symptoms of polymyalgia include the following:

  • aches in muscles of the shoulder
  • pain in muscles of the hips, thighs, buttocks, or upper arms
  • reduced range of motion in affected areas
  • stiffness in areas with pain and aching

Causes

Polyarthralgia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

Certain infections, such as infections by arthritogenic alphaviruses, can also cause polyarthralgia. Arthritogenic alphaviruses are carried by mosquitoes. These infections are usually isolated to small areas in warmer climates.

Other causes for polyarthralgia are high-impact exercises that stress the joint, such as running and jumping, and overuse of joints. Overuse of joints is common in people who have physically demanding jobs.

Risk factors

You may be at increased risk for developing polyarthralgia if you:

  • are overweight or obese, since excess weight can put extra strain on your joints
  • have a history of joint injury or surgery
  • are an older adult
  • work in physically demanding jobs that put your joints at risk of overuse
  • are female
  • have a family history of any conditions that impact the joints

Diagnosis

See your doctor if you are experiencing joint pain. Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may use to help diagnose your condition include:

Treatment

There are a variety of lifestyle changes and home remedies you can use to manage the symptoms of polyarthralgia. If home remedies don’t help, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatment methods.

Exercise

Low-impact exercise may help ease symptoms related to joint pain. Examples of low-impact exercise include:

  • swimming
  • walking
  • bicycling
  • yoga

Weightlifting exercises may also help, but it’s important to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly to avoid injury. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral to a physical therapist. They can show you appropriate exercises and how to do them correctly. If you’re a member of a gym, you can also try out a weightlifting class, or ask about working with a personal trainer for a couple of sessions. Just make sure you let the instructor or trainer know about your joint pain. You can also watch online videos to see examples of various weightlifting exercises.

Avoid exercises that stress the joints, such as running, and strenuous routines, such as CrossFit.

Maintain a healthy weight

If you’re overweight, losing weight may help relieve pain and slow down the progression of your condition. Excess weight can put extra strain on your joints, which can increase pain.

Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can help you lose weight. If you’re having trouble losing weight, talk to your doctor. They can help develop a weight loss program, and they may recommend you to a dietician.

Acupuncture

Researchers have found that acupuncture may be an effective way to manage mild to moderate pain associated with polyarthralgia. Acupuncture should not replace other treatments recommended by your doctor. Instead, acupuncture should be used in addition to other treatments.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy may help reduce pain associated with arthritis and also restore some movement. Research is limited, and studies have only looked at benefits to people with some types of arthritis. Physical therapists may include massage as part of a treatment plan. You can also see a masseuse at a spa, but you should verify that they are properly licensed. Massage should be used in addition to other treatments recommended by your doctor.

Heat or cool down the joints

Painful joints may respond to applying heat or applying ice. To use heat, apply a heating pad to the joint or try soaking in a warm bath. To cool down the painful joints, apply ice or packages of frozen vegetables for at least 20 minutes, three times per day.

Medication

If home remedies don’t work, you may need to use medication.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help you manage your pain. Follow the package instructions for dosage information.

Low-dose corticosteroids help to relieve pain, manage other symptoms, and slow the rate of joint degradation. Doctors usually prescribe them for 6-12 weeks at a time, but this may vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and joint damage. Low-dose corticosteroids can be administered orally, through injection, or topically as an ointment.

Your doctor may prescribe opioids if pain in the joints is severe and not resolving through other methods. It’s important to remember that these medications have high addictive potential.

Physical therapy

Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy. Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help manage and reduce pain. You’ll likely need to visit a physical therapist several times, and it may take a few visits before you start to feel any relief. They may also give you stretches or exercises to do at home.

Treat the symptoms

Polyarthralgia is often associated with other symptom expressions in addition to joint pain. Treating these other symptoms may help reduce pain. Examples of treatments for these symptoms may include:

  • muscle relaxants if you have muscle spasms
  • topical capsaicin or antidepressants to reduce associated neuropathic pain
  • topical lidocaine (LMX 4, LMX 5, AneCream, RectaSmoothe, RectiCare) to ease moderate to severe muscle pain

Outlook

Polyarthralgia usually isn’t severe and often doesn’t require immediate treatment. It can have a wide variety of causes and treatments. See your doctor or other health professional if you have joint pain. They can determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

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