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What causes migratory joint and muscle pain?

My mother has had 'migratory' joint pain, which began in her shoulders and is seeming to travel along her body. Is this a sign of a serious, systemic illness? What can cause a migratory pain of the joints or muscles?
Joint pain can have many causes and the specialists involved in diagnosing the many types of joint pain involve internists, general practitioners and rheumatologists. A family history of migratory joint pain and discomfort can help the physician with the diagnosis of the cause of joint pain. Joint pain/discomfort can generally be caused by two different forms. One form can be related to general wear and tear and this usually comes on with age, the joint pain is asymmetrical and is often made worse with activity. The other form of joint pain can be caused by our immune system. This form of joint pain usually is present in the morning and improves with activity, is symmetrical and has other systemic presentations such as rashes. Although these are the classic presentations, joint pain may not follow such a clear path of presentation. Other causes of joint pain can include infectious etiologies which behave like autoimmune causes of joint pain. While an internist can generally come up with the diagnosis, joint problems are generally best diagnosed by rheumatologists. It is not possible to diagnose causes of joint pain without a physical exam and proper history. Therefore evaluation by a specialist is necessary.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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