Is Teenage Joint Pain Serious?

It is common to find pain and aches in seniors and older adults, but one would wonder why a teenager or even a child would have joint pain?

At first, parents –and even teenagers themselves- would think nothing of the annoying niggle every so often in their joints…..  perhaps thinking It just may be a muscle pain that will soon pass. But as the pain  persistent, becoming more continuous and severe, it now becomes slightly more concerning. And then, swelling in the articulation starts to change its colour, and they come to the doctor with a diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis because that’s what they read on the internet.

teen pain in joints

As you will read in this article, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is definitely considered as a possibility.

But keep in mind it affects 1 per 1000 children and teens, so we can say it is relatively rare. Moreover, there are many other possible diagnoses to rule out, including trauma, Lyme disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and various types of infection.

Where should I start looking?

Even if you’re not a doctor, you can have your first suspicion by looking at the pattern of the joint pain. It’s exactly what your doctor will look for, so you will be preparing for his questions by examining yourself whether it takes one articulation or several articulations. When joint pain is located in more than one articulation, you can determine whether it is symmetric (taking the same articulation in both sides) or asymmetric (taking random articulations throughout the body). Get more help and advice from “Arthurs Place” a digital magazine and social network for young people with arthritis, aged 18-35 in the UK.

Another feature that will help to suspect one disease or another would be taking a look at other symptoms, such as fever, a skin rash, gum bleeding, abdominal pain, and anything that is not ordinary and started alongside with joint pain, or even some time before its onset. Is the affected articulation changing colour or is it becoming swollen?

Finally, check your own family background and look for other patients with arthritis, psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or inflammatory bowel diseases. If you have one or more relatives with these problems, it does not necessarily mean you’re next, but we may need to rule out the possibility.

When is Teen Joint Pain is located in one location?

You might think it is an oversimplification, but when joint pain is located in only one articulation, the first thing you need to examine is the possibility of trauma. Sometimes, you won’t necessarily have a bleeding bruise, but past trauma on a given articulation makes it feel tender to the touch and painful during physical activity. In this case, you could have some mild swelling, but it resolves when you stop using the articulation, and so it happens with the pain.

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Another possibility you might need to consider when joint pain is located in one articulation is a wide clinical entity called septic arthritis. It doesn’t mean you have sepsis or anything like that. Septic arthritis is an inflammation of the articulation that results from an infection in other parts of your body and the immune reaction against the pathogen.

This is typically caused by Staphylococcus infections and may affect one or several joints at the same time. One important clinical feature of septic arthritis is fever, and sometimes it’s very high, with an extremely painful joint.

Another possibility your doctor might need to examine is whether or not you have a blood disorder. It is not necessarily a malignant blood disorder such as leukemia –which you may read about when searching for joint pain in children and adolescents in online search engines- but also benignant problems like hemophilia, thalassemia, and other genetic disorders.

Most of them have musculoskeletal manifestations that may vary from single joint pain to symmetrical polyarthritis. Thus, check for blood disorders in your family, because that’s probably one of the questions your doctor will ask to complete his diagnosis.

When will you have multiple Teenage Joint Pains?

We have talked about the possibility of having several articulations taken in septic arthritis and musculoskeletal complications of hematological disorders. However, there are plenty of signs and symptoms to check when a patient has pain in more than one articulation. There are plenty of diseases, but if your joint problems started right away with two or more articulations, one of the first diseases to rule out is systemic lupus erythematosus.

Children and teens with lupus erythematosus would usually experience fatigue as one of the main symptoms. They usually have skin rash and may experience various symptoms such as hair loss, fever, mouth sores, and much more.


East Asian kid joint pain

It is more common in females and Asian children and adolescents. This disease is different from one patient to another, so if you have other concerning or rare symptoms besides multiple joint pains, you might need to talk to your doctor.

Similar to juvenile arthritis, this is a rare disease, but the signs and symptoms usually mislead doctors, which is why most of them prefer to rule it out immediately.

Now, let’s talk about juvenile arthritis. There are 5 different types of juvenile arthritis, and each one of them has their own signs and symptoms:

  • Systemic arthritis: Affects many different joints at the same time and gives a high fever and rash.
  • Psoriatic arthritis: It should be considered in children with psoriasis and joint pain.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: takes 5 or more joints, and they are usually symmetric with a spiking fever that appears in the evening or late afternoon along with skin rash.
  • Enthesitis-related arthritis: It’s sometimes included in the spectrum of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, but in this case, the problem is located in the enthesis, which is the attachment between bones and tendons.
  • Oligoarticular Juvenile arthritis: It’s one of the most common, it takes 5 or fewer joints, and may affect the eyes as well. However, it commonly appears in early childhood and not during adolescent years.

Besides arthritis, there are many other diseases that may give you joint pain as well. Certain viral infections would cause a high fever, gum bleeding, hematologic alterations, and joint pain. Lyme disease is an infection transmitted by the black-legged tick and may cause enlarged lymph nodes, fever, a sore throat, and fatigue. Inflammatory bowel disease has various symptoms besides gastrointestinal problems, including fever and joint pain.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about after ruling out the most common causes of joint pain, which is why if you see concerning or very rare symptoms along with a sudden onset of unexplained joint pain, it is a good idea to ask your doctor and follow instructions to see exactly what’s going on.






Kim, K. H., & Kim, D. S. (2010). Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Diagnosis and differential diagnosis. Korean journal of pediatrics, 53(11), 931.

Shirtliff, M. E., & Mader, J. T. (2002). Acute septic arthritis. Clinical microbiology reviews, 15(4), 527-544.4

Petty, R. E., Laxer, R. M., Lindsley, C. B., & Wedderburn, L. (2015). Textbook of pediatric rheumatology. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Morais, S. A., du Preez, H. E., Akhtar, M. R., Cross, S., & Isenberg, D. A. (2015). Musculoskeletal complications of haematological disease. Rheumatology, 55(6), 968-981.

Levy, D. M., & Kamphuis, S. (2012). Systemic lupus erythematosus in children and adolescents. Pediatric Clinics, 59(2), 345-364.

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