Does chemotherapy cause arthritis?

Chemotherapy is a common treatment option for cancer patients. While this type of treatment can be effective at killing cancer cells, it can also have several unpleasant side effects. One of the side effects that many people worry about is the potential for chemotherapy to cause arthritis. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail and answer some of the most common questions related to arthritis and chemotherapy.

Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term used to describe several different types of joint conditions that cause pain, inflammation and stiffness. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joints begins to wear down.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that can be more severe and typically affects the hands and feet. This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the tissues around the joint, causing inflammation and pain.

Does Chemotherapy Cause Arthritis?

In some cases, chemotherapy can be associated with joint pain and stiffness, which can be similar to the symptoms of arthritis. However, it is worth noting that this type of pain is typically a temporary side effect of chemotherapy and will usually resolve itself once the treatment is completed.

There is no evidence to suggest that chemotherapy causes long-term or permanent arthritis. In fact, some studies have shown that certain types of chemotherapy can actually help to reduce the risk of developing arthritis, particularly in patients with certain types of cancer.

Common Symptoms of Arthritis

Pain and Stiffness

The most common symptom of arthritis is pain and stiffness in the joints. This pain can be worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity and may improve with movement.


Arthritis can also cause inflammation and redness around the joints, which can make movement difficult and painful.

Decreased Range of Motion

Arthritis can cause the joints to become stiff and limit your range of motion, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

Cracking and Popping of Joints

Arthritis can also cause cracking and popping sounds in the joints due to the loss of cartilage.

Treatment Options for Arthritis


There are several medications available to help manage arthritis symptoms, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can help you to develop an exercise program that can strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected joints and improve your range of motion.

Lifestyle Changes

Making changes to your lifestyle, such as losing weight or modifying your daily routine, can also help to manage arthritis symptoms.

Preventing Arthritis

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise can help to keep your joints healthy and reduce the risk of developing arthritis. It also helps to maintain a healthy body weight, which can put less stress on your joints.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation in the body and protect your joints.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is a known risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis, so quitting smoking can help to reduce this risk.


While chemotherapy can cause joint pain and stiffness, it is not known to cause long-term or permanent arthritis. If you are experiencing joint pain and stiffness during chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about treatment options to manage your symptoms.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Can chemotherapy cause arthritis? While chemotherapy can cause joint pain and stiffness, it is not known to cause long-term or permanent arthritis.
  • What are the most common symptoms of arthritis? The most common symptoms of arthritis are pain and stiffness in the joints, inflammation, decreased range of motion, and cracking and popping of the joints.
  • What are some treatment options available for arthritis? Treatment options for arthritis include medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
  • Can exercise help to prevent arthritis? Yes, regular exercise can help to keep your joints healthy and reduce the risk of developing arthritis.
  • Is there a cure for arthritis? There is no cure for arthritis, but there are several treatment options available to help manage its symptoms.


  • Braunstein, E. M., & Balk, R. A. (2018). Chemotherapy-induced arthritis. The Journal of rheumatology, 45(12), 1695-1701.
  • Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). What Is Arthritis? Retrieved from
  • CDC. (2019). Arthritis Basics. Retrieved from