What Are the Causes of Aching Bones & Joints?

It is common to experience pain that feels like it originates in the bones and joints, and many different conditions can cause these symptoms. In many cases, the pain does not actually originate within the bone, but comes from surrounding soft tissues, such as pain that may occur with a sprained ankle or strained muscle. Some conditions that present with bone and joint pain may be serious or even life-threatening. Most causes of these symptoms are simple and will go away on their own, but any persistent or progressing pain should be diagnosed.


Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic condition that can affect any part of the body and commonly causes painful and swollen joints, fatigue, headaches, and many other symptoms 1. According to The Lupus Foundation of America, lupus is referred to as “the great imitator” because its symptoms are so common among many other conditions, making it hard to diagnose 1. Lupus comes and goes in flare-ups and can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. Lupus is an autoimmune condition, which means that an individual’s own immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy tissues rather than foreign invaders. Since lupus can affect any organ or tissue in the body, many different doctors may participate in treating lupus, even though there is no known cure.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a condition that is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdoferi, which is transferred to humans through the bite of a deer tick. Not all ticks are infected, but the prevalence is higher in certain areas of the country, such as the Northeast. Lyme disease almost always begins with a rash that radiates out from the site of the tick bite, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation. Once the rash appears, other symptoms usually begin. These include a propensity for pain that seems to originate in the joints and bones; fever; fatigue; chills; stiff, achy neck; numbness; and tingling. In severe cases, cardiac anomalies and neurological symptoms can occur. Early recognition and treatment with antibiotics are necessary for a good outcome.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that is a chronic inflammatory condition. The term arthritis literally means “joint inflammation,” and patients with RA suffer with joint pain and eventual bone distortion. RA causes inflammation of the synovial lining of the joints, which is the covering at the ends of bones. Initially, the joints swell and become painful and warm. As the condition progresses, the synovial lining and the bone are digested and broken down. RA patients suffer with flare-ups of joint pain and stiffness. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis and no cure is currently available.