Polyarthralgia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

PolyarthralgiaPolyarthralgia is a disabling health problem that involves intermittent or persistent pain due to various causes. Here, we take a look at the symptoms, underlying causes, and treatment options.

Polyarthralgia can be confusing because it isn’t a disorder on its own; it’s usually associated with other ailments. A simple polyarthralgia definition is a condition that leads to pain in several joints in the body. While this could describe a number of health conditions, polyarthralgia is most commonly linked to rheumatoid arthritis.


When asked, “what is polyarthralgia?” doctors often describe the onset and symptoms of the condition. For instance, polyarthralgia joint pain frequently begins with mild or dull pain but becomes more intense over time, leading to disability.

Polyarthralgia is more likely to happen to an elderly person and for some reason; women tend to get it more than men.

What Are the Causes of Polyarthralgia?

Polyarthralgia causes range from musculoskeletal diseases and infections to drug reactions; however, age is the main cause.

The following list outlines polyarthralgia causes in a little more detail:

Injuries: Sports-related injuries can lead to the symptoms associated with polyarthralgia. Football and cricket are examples of activities that have been known to cause the condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis: This arthritic disease can often lead to polyarthralgia pain in the joints. It seems that people who have the gene known as HLA-DR1 are more prone to getting the illness.

Viral infections: Hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus, Chikungunya infection, and alphaviral infections can cause polyarthralgia arthritis. There are also some bacterial infections that can cause polyarthralgia, including subacute bacterial endocarditis.

Drug reactions: Certain drugs have the potential to lead to polyarthralgia. For example, there is a medication that is used to treat tuberculosis that can cause symptoms associated with this condition when taken in high doses.

Gout: The metabolic ailment that causes lots of uric acids to accumulate in the blood creating crystal deposits can result in polyarthralgia.

Other diseases: It has been suggested that Mixed Connective Tissues Disease or MCTD can cause polyarthralgia. Scleroderma and Sjogren’s syndrome are examples.

Older age: The older people get, the higher the risk of osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis. Although we have been unable to pinpoint why, women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and polyarthralgia.

What Is the Difference between Polyarthralgia and Polyarthritis?

It is understandable that people get polyarthralgia and polyarthritis mixed up. The two conditions are similar in that they can both cause pain in multiple joints. The difference though is that polyarthritis creates inflammation in the joints but polyarthralgia doesn’t.

What Are the Symptoms of Polyarthralgia?

There are several polyarthralgia symptoms. How an individual deals with them largely depends on their mood and pain tolerance level.

Joint pain: This can be due to inflammation that pushes on nerve endings that are within the affected joint.

Stiffness: Cartilage damage with polyarthralgia can lead to a decrease in joint motion, which can make it hard to move around.

Pain: The level of pain has been described as much worse than typical arthritis.

Cephalocaudal pattern of pain: This means that the movement of pain and discomfort tends to start at the top of the body, such as the neck, and then it works its way down to the shoulders and trunk.

Fatigue: Like many types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, polyarthralgia can include fatigue as well as weakness.

Joint redness: Although this doesn’t happen in every case of polyarthralgia, redness in the joints can occur.

Joint swelling: It is common to experience swelling around the joints with polyarthralgia.

The signs and symptoms of polyarthralgia tend to start in middle age and continue into old age. Since it can impact many joints, it is not unusual for people to experience symptoms in the hands, knees, hips, legs, and shoulders.

How Is Polyarthralgia Diagnosed?

Polyarthralgia diagnosis involves an evaluation that considers medical history and a physical exam. In terms of medical history, the doctor will likely ask whether there is a family history of joint disease or if you started experiencing pain after an injury – all part of a logical line of questions. The physical exam will include the doctor feeling the joints and determining the range of motion. There could be specific tests ordered, such as images.

Laboratory testing, including a polyarthralgia blood test, is common practice. The blood is checked for rheumatoid factor, uric acid, C–reactive protein, antinuclear antibodies, as well as erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which can help reveal inflammation in the body.

In some cases, a doctor will perform an arthrocentesis. This is a procedure that allows for the removal of fluid from the joints to relieve some of the pain. Analyzing the fluid can also indicate more about what might be causing the problem.

As far as imaging goes, usually X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT) scans are taken. Often times, a dye injection is given to the patient when a CT scan is performed because it can give a better view of cartilage, ligaments, and tissue around the affected joint.

Treatment Options for Polyarthralgia

Medications can be prescribed to help you if you are suffering from this condition, but polyarthralgia treatment also includes lifestyle adjustments.

The list below covers the most common polyarthralgia treatment options:

Medications: There are several different medications that can be prescribed to help with joint pain. Some people who experience extreme pain may be prescribed opioids, but it’s important to know that they can be highly addictive. The majority of sufferers turn to over-the-counter pain relievers or even low-dose corticosteroids prescribed by their doctor. Those who have a lot of inflammation may benefit from anti-inflammatory medication.

Weight management: Excess weight puts more strain on our joints and can increase pain, so losing weight can relieve that pain. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help. Your doctor can help you develop a weight loss program or guide you to someone who can.

Acupuncture: Research has suggested that acupuncture may be effective for those who suffer from mild to moderate polyarthralgia. Most doctors will tell you that acupuncture should be used as an addition to other treatments.

Heating or cooling joints: Some people find that applying heat or applying ice is helpful. You can try a heating pad or soak in a warm bath. Alternatively, apply ice or packages of frozen vegetables for about 20 minutes, three times a day.

Physical therapy: There are various techniques a physical therapist can use to help you manage and reduce the level of pain you are experiencing. More often than not, you will be given exercises and stretches to do at home in between visits with the therapist.

Moderate exercise: Doctors and physical therapists suggest walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are generally safe activities because they don’t put too much weight on the joints.


Some people also find that massages and simply resting the joints for a few days can reduce the discomfort. Just don’t keep the joint still for too long or you will experience stiffness and loss of movement.

In a lot of cases, polyarthralgia is not severe and doesn’t call for immediate treatment. If you do start to experience joint pain that starts to impact your ability to perform daily tasks, it is time to see your doctor. He or she can determine the underlying cause and suggest the most appropriate treatment.

Also read: Tai Chi for Arthritis: Benefits, Exercises, and Principles

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



Related Reading:

Periarthritis (Frozen Shoulder): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

What causes migratory arthritis? Symptoms and treatment