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Arthritis after chemo

jillpls's picture
Posts: 241
Joined: Mar 2008

Has anyone experienced arthritis or joint pain after their chemo treaments? I have very stiff and sore shoulder joints after I finished folfiri. It started a month or two after I finished that treatment. I'm on Xeloda now and the joint pain is still there.

ron50's picture
Posts: 1401
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Jill,
I am an eleven year survivor of st3 colon ca. I had mild RA when Iwas suffering from ca and since chemo I have suffered continuing auto immune problems. My arthritis is now so bad that I have inflammation in nearly every joint and I am currently being treated with methotrexate which is used as a chemo agent and an immuno=suppressant. I don't tolerate it very well and I take folic acid and leucovorin to try to limmit side effects. (what joy ,back on chemo after 11 years) A lot of the chemo agents suppress the immune system and when it comes back it does not appear to discriminate between good cells and bad cells. My condition is being worsened by a condition they think is small fibre neuropathy. I have lost feeling in toes, feet,legs and left hand. The chemo regime I was on was not known to cause neuropathy. It may be a good idea to get a referral to a rheumatologist. They can do blood tests to check for inflammation and perhaps treat it early. Best of luck Ron.

steve g
Posts: 56
Joined: Dec 2008

Ron; I went to the ER with joint pain, they brought in a rheumatologist and she dx it as polymyology rheumatica. She said a blood test showed inflammation and gave me a shot of prednisone and a script for it. It's been over 2 months and I still have numbness in my finger tips but no joint pain. I had 5fu and radiation presugery and started Folfox post but quit after the first treatment, don't know if this was enough to be a factor. Had chemo in Jan and pain started 5 weeks later, never considered chemo as a cause. Steve

VickiCO's picture
Posts: 934
Joined: Oct 2008

I am having such problems with my hip joints. It hurts to lie on my side (which is how I sleep, of course!) Nurses told me chemo can settle in large joints, such as hips, shoulders, knees. Also, I had 28 radiation zaps right through both hips, so that had to have some effect. Unfortunately, I am allergic to n-saids, aspirin, ibuprfin, ect and Vicodin doesn't touch it. They told me that over time, as the chemo leaves my body, it will get better. I sure hope so...

Many hugs, Vicki

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3663
Joined: Jul 2008


Yes,I've suffered with joint pain since chemotherapy. I'm the stiffest upon awakening or even the first step or two after sitting for a while. The actual pains hurt a lot when I try to walk (it's currently acting up in my foot, but also acts up in other joints like in my neck, lower back, and hands). Actually, I've also had some severe muscle aches and pains in addition to the join pain. My primary care Dr. sent me to have bloodwork for arthritis, which included testing the sed rate and the rh factor. Both came back within normal limits. As it happened even though I had been feeling pain most days, the day I went in for labwork I had no pain or problems whatsoever. I asked my Dr. if my results would have been different if I had symptoms at the same time. She said "no, you either have it or you don't". My mom, however, does have rheumatoid arthritis (not cancer though) and she said her Drs. had a hard time diagnosising her and her tests came back as normal at first.

It is my thought lately from what I've been hearing and reading that chemo doesn't neccesarily cause these other illnesses such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, but it wreaks havoc with the immune system. Compromised immune systems are prone to getting autoimmune diseases. So, it's my thought that taking chemo allows your body tobe susceptible to all sorts of autoimmune illnesses. My primary care Dr. said she never heard such a thing.

I went to a street fair yesterday with my family. I was/am in such pain I can't stand it & I know something is definitely going on even though arthritis tests came back "normal". I think I also may have a bone spur in my left heel, which is causing a huge amount of pain (it wouldn't be related to chemo, but I think it could be due to irritation from me walking funny, which is because of the pain in my toe joints- so it is related in a roundabout sort of way).

I'd go and ask for a referral to a rhematologist or at least pursue testing. Then, if it ends up coming back normal, still pursue more. I'm going to call my Dr's office today to ask about more testing & also an x-ray of my foot, where I'm currently having the most trouble.

Best wishes,

kimby's picture
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007


Your post caught my attention because I have fibromyalgia. It took me years to get diagnosed, which is pretty common because there isn't a blood test or a scan for it. Fibro has periods of remission and flares up during times of stress or other health problems. I would say that it has been worse than ever the last 2 years...hmmmm, can't think of why that might be! LOL

I have good days and bad days for pain, with no real triggers except perhaps fatigue and overwork. Walking, swimming and yoga help. I'm medicated (different meds work for different people) and use hot water therapy and heating pads (an electric blanket is a wonderful whole-body heating pad).

I would advise that you see a rheumatologist for evaluation. There are good, effective treatments now for fibro, and if that's not it maybe you can get some help for whatever it is.

Good luck,


ldot123's picture
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2008

I also had fibromyalgia like symptoms after my chemo. This has since dissipated and am feeling better in that department. Who knows what to expect in the future. Could be age related or chemo related. It is hard to tell at this juncture. Cheers, Lance

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3663
Joined: Jul 2008


How long after chemo did your "fibromyalgia like symptoms" last?
How long has it now been since the last time you did chemo & so how long have you now been without these symptoms? I'm wondering if it's worth the bother to pursue any "diagnosis" (arthritis or fibromyalgia- I seem to have some symptoms of both), or I'm wondering if I should just ride it out and see if the symptoms go away over time. My problem is that the symptoms have gotten even worse these past 2-3 weeks and I just hurt all the time.


lisa42's picture
Posts: 3663
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Kimby,

Does a rheumatologist also evaluate for fibromyalgia? I do think I will ask for a referral. My primary care doctor told me a few months back that I didn't need to go to one because my bloodwork came back normal. I do think I will try again, though- I have to!
You mentioned the heated blanket- I have noticed heat does wonders for me too- I love a hot bath. I also recently got a wonderful full back and neck shiatsu massager. Some people (like my husband) hate how it feels, but I think it's wonderful. I had another "massager" that just had heat and vibration & it did nothing for me. This one works well, so I think I could probably also benefit from regular massages. I just never allowed myself to pay for a massage, as much as I wanted to. My husband has always been "tight" with money. Now, if we look at it as medically neccessary :), then he might relax his attitude about paying for them now. Anyhow, I have thought about the possibility of fibromyaligia & have always heard it's very difficul to diagnose. I don't know what else what cause the muscle aches and pain at the same time as the joint pain, though. I will be doing some more research on it. Some may even just be neuropathy from the chemo I've had, too.
Thanks for your reply,

kimby's picture
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007


Yes, my rheumatologist diagnosed my fibro. It didn't take him long at all, it just took me years of going through doctors to get to a rheumatologist. I've had fibro for much longer than I've had canzer, but the stress of the disease and the ick of the treatments have certainly aggravated the symptoms. I don't know if chemo can induce fibro or not.

My doc fought and got my insurance to pay toward (not in its entirety) a hot tub. I had been spending hours everyday in the tub. (I still do that sometimes..hehehe) He also suggested massage therapy and I do get one or two a month but it is just cost prohibitive at this point to do any more than that.

Here is some info on fibro from U of Michigan. I'm only sending this particular link because it's where I go for my fibro and canzer treatments and they have some good info here. I'm not suggesting you have to travel from wherever you are and go there. Hope it helps.


Let me know if I can help with anything!


lisa42's picture
Posts: 3663
Joined: Jul 2008

Thanks Kimby-
I checked out the link you posted. Your info was quite helpful.
I will have to start pursuing this. I kind of dread it- I thought cancer was more than enough to deal with, but I guess I'm already dealing with this other "whatever it is" without a diagnosis. I suppose a diagnosis, if one can be made, could help me focus and deal with it better.
Thanks and take care-


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4712
Joined: May 2005

Sometimes I get pain in my joints, usually in the morning and I wonder if it's because I just woke up and my meds have worn off or if it's age (51), chemo, or a combination of all of the above. I tend to get it in my legs more than anywhere else.
Sometiemes it's also a pain when I can't get a joint but that's another story.

Posts: 160
Joined: Nov 2007

Very interesting because I've had the same type of problem after finishing chemo in June 2008. My scans are now showing I have degenerative arthritis in my spine and I can no longer get down on the floor and get back up without pain and stiffness in my knees. Of course, my doctors don't believe this is chemo-related, but due to my age (I turned 48 in November). I truly believe that chemo has much longer effects or in ways that aren't recognized by our doctors. My primary care doctor prescribed Celebrex for my knees, but I haven't started it yet. Has anyone tried this and, if so, did it help? I also noticed that when I was on chemo, it felt like pins being stuck in my eyes when I would start to cry. Believe it or not, that side effect has not gone away either. I try not to cry very often. I also have neuropathy in my feet, legs, and fingers. To me, this is evidence that chemo changes our bodies.


msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

I have osteoarthritis now in both knees and by hands. Celebrex totally relieves the knee issues, although since they are basically bone to bone, short of knee replacement surgery, I just can't kneel for long periods and forget getting on the ground and being able to get back up! The hands aren't relieved quite as well, but they are tolerable. I use them more, since I program computers for a living and knit and crochet for pleasure! Adding glucosamine and MSM has really helped make the hands tolerable as well. Occasionally I have to take Acetaminophen as well, but not often.

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8062
Joined: Aug 2005

But, I was 'lucky' to get diagnosed with breast cancer 6 months after the rectal, and had a bone scan, which showed bone degeneration...so I started on Actonel (an osteoporosis drug). My density has improved, my joint pain decreased.

I still have trouble putting on my left sock (my hip joint won't bend that way anymore...probably from the rads), and I have my right shoulder with pain that, after 4 months, I'm going to have checked. BUT, I'm an old lady of 53...it could be worse...lol!

Hugs, Kathi

danker's picture
Posts: 868
Joined: Apr 2012

" an old lady of 53 "  Wait till you try it at 81!!!

CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Wow... it's amazing how many of us have the same joint pain complaints after all having experienced chemo! They "say" chemo doesn't cause joint pain, yet look how many of us are suffering these pains?

I forget who described it as worse in the morning when waking up, then walking for any length of time and pain in the shoulders, lower back, and larger joints. That describes me to a tee! I did go to a rheumatologist and there's no sign of rheumatoid arthritis (phew!) but my bone scan did show severe osteoarthritis in the knees and moderate OA in the lower back and feet. That doesn't explain the joint pain everywhere else as well. They have monitored it for some time and since it has been well over 6 months, I have been dx'd with CPS (Chronic Pain Syndrome), which is a known syndrome that can be caused by a severe injury (not in my case) or cancer treatments.

I did have OA in my knees prior to starting chemo, but the chemo has definitely aggravated it and no, Celebrex does not touch the pain (anywhere). I'm now trying Tramadol, which seems to be helping in the knees but not helping with the lower back. I also take 2 prescription Tylenol #3 with codiene three times/day.

Heat helps...well is relaxing. Unfortunately, nice hot soaks in the tub are out because of the pain in the knees... getting in/out of the tub is impossible. But hot showers are heavenly :)

Phil.. like you, I put it down to "aging is not for sissies" and as we get older, aches and pains are a part of life. But severe joint pain? I look at others in their early 50s and they are definitely not in the kind of pain I'm in, or have restrictions as to what I can do. So I definitely think if the chemo did not actually cause these problems, it brought out and aggravated weaknesses that may have caused the problems 30 years from now.

Just my .02 worth


Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2013

i had breast cancer 2 years ago and had chemo since then ive been feeling like im falling apart. When I go to my oncologist he says no connection. I got diagnoised with ra yesterday. I feel it was the chemo that helped with that. But everyone says its not but reading what you and others wrote I feel better knowing others feel the same.

devotion10's picture
Posts: 640
Joined: Jan 2010

2009 and has conversations with some of our dear friends who have passed on.  Not that their conversations are not valuable ... but, it is typical to start a new post.  Thank you -- Cynthia

kmygil's picture
Posts: 841
Joined: Feb 2007

Sure enough, the joint pain & bad knees I had prior to chemo became worse afterwards. I have had knee surgery on one knee. My hips & lower back are in constant pain. My long bones in the legs hurt, too, and I take meds for that when it becomes unbearable. But I live and it's a bargain!


jillpls's picture
Posts: 241
Joined: Mar 2008

Thanks guys for all the responses. I'm going to ask for a referral and also for some meds. The shoulder join pain keeps me up all night. I was given some muscle relax meds but that only worked a little and for a short time. I have been doing yin yoga 2 days a week, and that helps. Plus I swim a couple days a week and walk everyday for exercise. I'm trying to stay fit as best I can but the pain makes it hard. Thank you for all your great advise. ( :

Posts: 118
Joined: Mar 2009

A few weeks after finishing chemo I noticed that I had terrible pain in my joints thru out my entire body. I couldn't walk up or down the stairs, after sitting for a short period of time not only couldn't I walk but I couldn't even straighten up. I also noticed that I had swelling in my fingers and toes,on top of the neuropathy in my hands and feet.I spoke to my onc and she did some blood work and at first the tests indicated that I had Lupis,so she sent me to a rhematologist for further testing. It ended up that I have rhematoid arthritis in all my joints,and on top of that there has been some damage to my bones. I was started on Plaquinel (sp) and then I took an anti-inflammatory, which didn't really do much. Most of the time it's a matter of trying different meds till you find one that works.I tried a couple of ani-inflammatories but one was worse than the other. One caused liver damage after only 2 wks, the other gave me insomnia that I didn't sleep for 3 days. After that I decided not to try any more and I would just stick to the Plaquinel, which took almost 3 months before I started to notice a difference.I still have some pain in one shoulder, and my back bothers me more times than not but it's better than it was. I also have tennis elbow in my right elbow from the arthritis which has been bothering me for months. The strange thing about that other than I don't play tennis, is tha I'm left handed! My knees are much better, but now they crack really loud and forget about bending down! I have now also developed thyroid problems besides, so I feel like I'm always going to one dr or another. I forgot to mention a side effect from the pills I take for the arthritis can cause retina problems, so I go to the eye dr every 3 months. It's been pretty hard with all these different things but I'm alive, and that's the important thing!

kimby's picture
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007

Well gang, I just learned something new. I've had fibro for many years with symptoms worsening since canzer tx started. I started Lyrica for pain several months ago and it has really helped me. My medical onc asked me yesterday about my neuropathy and I reported that it has greatly improved in the last 2 months which is odd because I'm still on chemo. He stated that Lyrica is FDA approved for neuropathy, fibromyalgia and shingles pain. It works for the nerve damage type stuff. Coincidentally, my endocronologist and I spoke today and she says she prescribes Lyrica for diabetic neuropathy.

So, I guess you might be able to get some relief without another crappy diagnosis in your chart! I hope this helps someone out there.


angelsbaby's picture
Posts: 1165
Joined: May 2008

Angel would have me message his shoulders because they hurt so much so it was the chemo.

CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Thanks, Kimby! My GP and I are still trying to find the drug that will give me the most benefit. Right now, I am on Tramadol/Tylenol #3 with Codiene/Gabapentin. The Tramadol is the new one in my combo and, I have to admit I've had a couple of days that, although not pain-free, have been good enough that I've been telling everyone how good I'm feeling :)

I think I'll give it awhile longer and if it keeps the pain level to a 5 or below (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being excruciating) then I think I'll be happy. Prior to the Tramadol, I was on Celebrex/Tylenol #3 with Codiene/Gabapentin and my pain level ranged from a 6 - 8... so the Tramadol is definitely doing better than the Celebrex ;)

But you are the second person who has mentioned Lyrica to me... so I'm going to ask my GP about that one as a backup :)



fiske haller
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2013

had lukemia-hodgekins lymphoma-large B-cell lymphoma and was stage 4 in 2009.  Had 3 separate rounds of chemo 6 each.  Them bone marrow transplant with homologous blood stem cell transplant preceded by a very strong chemo.  I also have arthritis in my lower knuckles of my thumbs.  Sometimes low back.  Chemo doctor at first said yes we did that to you.  Now he says its just part of old age and the chemo had nothing to do with it.  INTERESTING-YES?  After reading many articles on the web have concluded that the severe muscle cramps and lack of muscle comming back to strength has something to do with the damage the chemo has caused with liver function.  Have started taking k2 and curcumin to help clean the liver and calcium build up in muscles.  K2 is a natural transporter of calcium and other functions as well.  To early to tell if it will help.  Use heating pad on muscle cramps.  have also increased calcium and magnesium and postasium intake since it seems absortion of certian things has been interfered with.  Chemo brain is slowly going away.  I thank everyones comments to know that I am not crazy.  thought there was always a connection of some sort known or unkown or hidden from public knowledge.

Bless your all.Laughing

LivinginNH's picture
Posts: 1420
Joined: Apr 2010

Hi all, I just sent the above newbie a note about the posting dates.  All set.


Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2015






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