Understanding Joint pain

Joint pain can affect people differently. One person may experience it in their hands, another may feel it in their knees. Joint pain can affect different parts of the body, including the: hips, hands, feet, elbows and knees.

Patient showing joint pain

What are the symptoms of joint pain?

If you have joint pain you know you can have good and bad days. Joint pain can change day to day and range from mild to severe pain. This can make it challenging and frustrating to even brush your teeth and get dressed. Symptoms of joint pain can be:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation
  • Tenderness
  • Decreased ability to move

What are the causes of joint pain?

There are many things that can cause joint pain. You may experience joint pain after an injury, accident or an illness. Joints are designed to keep us moving, but sometimes the inside mechanism that keep joints flexible gets damaged. Damage to tissue like cartilage can make the joints rub against each other and cause pain and inflammation.


Other causes can include:

  • Bursitis
  • Different kinds of inflammatory disease
  • Gout
  • Tendinitis
  • Age

When should I see my doctor?

Doctor smiling and talking with older female patient

You should see you doctor if you have noticed any of the following:

  • You have a fever that doesn’t have any flu symptoms
  • You have lost 10 pounds or more without trying
  • Your joint pain has lasted for more than 3 days
  • You are experiencing severe, unexplained joint pain and swelling, especially if you have other unexplained symptoms

What treatments are available for joint pain?


Before treatment

Before treating you, your doctor will do need a complete picture of your medical history to properly access your condition. Some of the questions you may be asked are:

  • Do you have a new or previous injury?
  • Have you had an illness, rash or fever?
  • Is the pain constant, or does it come and go?
  • Is there any numbness?
  • Can you bend and straighten the joint?

Once you’re diagnosed

Once your joint pain is diagnosed there are several treatment options that are available that can include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – these include topical NSAIDs such as diclofenac gel as well as the ones you take by mouth such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Physiotherapy
  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Massage

Lifestyle tips for joint pain

If you’re suffering from joint pain, here a few suggestions that can help make your daily life a little easier:

  • Get enough sleep – if you have trouble sleeping avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon
  • Keep hydrated - especially in hot weather
  • Stand up straight – slouching can make your muscles work harder and leave you tired
  • Maintain a healthy weight - this will relieve any extra pressure being overweight will place on your knees
  • Commit to exercises like swimming or biking that are kind to your knees

Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise regimen or routine


Often joint pain is more noticeable in one area. If you find your joint pain is more frequent in your knees, you can find more helpful information in the Knee Pain section