Can Low Iron Cause Joint Pain? (Anemia and Joint Pain)

Low Blood Iron and Joint Pain

These red blood cells transport oxygen around your body.

A lot of people ask whether low iron can cause joint pain? Before answering this question, let me explain what low iron actually is. The state of iron deficiency in human blood stream is referred to as a disease, commonly known as “Anemia”.

Anemia means “absence of blood” in Latin. In this condition, the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow decreases by a scary margin. Red blood cells are oxygen supplying agents for the body and the body craves oxygen 24/7 – so you can understand the importance of this process.

Another drawback of anemia is that haemoglobin levels fall tremendously. Haemoglobin, commonly referred to as HB, on all your blood test reports, is a protein which contains iron. It helps red blood cells in absorbing and consequently delivering oxygen throughout the body.

Anemia is not life threatening but it can force a healthy, active person to live a rather sedentary life. Here’s a Khan Academy video that shows how red blood cells work and what really is anemia.

Can low iron cause joint pain?

Anemia often comes with an inflammatory sickness called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is a disease of the body joints which is auto-immune. This means that it starts acting against your own body’s joints and destroys them over time.

When RA is activated with iron deficiency anemia, it causes inflammation in the joints and tissues below the skin layer. The inflammation process decreases the red blood cell levels by releasing multiple damaging proteins.

This affects the way our body utilizes its iron supplies, resulting in severe joint pain. The most affected is the production of a hormone called erythropoietin which is vital for red blood cell supplies.

In short, the answer here is yes – low iron in the body actually can be a major cause for joint pain.


The main cause of joint pain in anemia is because the drugs that are used to treat RA, support anemia as a side effect. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can play a very negative role for your health.

Your body may suffer from iron deficiency and may even suffer with stomach ulcers. This is the reason why doctors recommend regular blood tests with these medications.

Issues & Treatment

Along with joint pain, iron deficiency anemia can also cause a few other health problems that include:

  • Slow growth in children.
  • Pregnancy difficulties.
  • Heart beat irregularities.

After doing multiple blood tests to diagnose the severity of your anemia, a doctor can suggest any of the various treatments available.

In cases of the RA-Anemia combo, doctors instantly work on decreasing overall inflammation in the body. Other patients that suffer from excessively low anemia levels can be treated simply by consumption of a few iron supplements in regular routine.

There are many cases in which no specific treatment is required and people recover the HB levels just by eating high iron food. Yet a drug called erythropoietin is advised to increase the flow of red blood cells in the bloodstream.

All that being said, it is important to understand that any information, including this post, is not to be substituted for expert medical advice. Your body, its needs and ailments can be a result of factors specific  to your lifestyle and genetics. Hence, if you are facing any issues discussed in this post, it is best to educate yourself and then seek professional medical opinion.


Amelia Hadd has written 6 articles

Having grown up in Blackfen, Amelia was unsure about moving to the Middle East but ended up taking a job with a multi-national health and fitness company where she now advises clients about lifestyle changes and dietary plans.

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