Joint pain can be discomfort, pain or inflammation arising from any part of a joint — including cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons or muscles. Most commonly, however, joint pain refers to arthritis or arthralgia, which is inflammation or pain from within the joint itself.
Joint pain can be mild, causing soreness only after certain activities, or it can be severe, making even limited movement, particularly bearing weight, extremely painful.
Joint pain is rarely an emergency. Most cases of mild joint pain can be successfully managed at home.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your joint pain is accompanied by:
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint
See a doctor immediately if your joint pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by:
- Joint deformity
- Inability to use the joint
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
When caring for mild joint pain at home, follow these tips:
- Try an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Avoid using your joint in ways that cause or worsen pain.
- Apply ice or a package of frozen peas to your painful joint for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day.
- Apply a heating pad, soak in a warm tub or take a warm shower to relax muscles and increase circulation.
March 16, 2021
- Shmerling RH. Evaluation of the adult with polyarticular pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- What is arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis.php. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- Kimura Y, et al. Evaluation of the child with joint pain or swelling. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- Pain in multiple joints. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/pain-in-and-around-joints/pain-in-multiple-joints. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- Inflammation and stiffness: The hallmarks of arthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/arthritis-swelling-and-stiffness.php. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- Helfgott SM. Overview of monoarthritis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- What is Paget's disease of bone? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Pagets/pagets_disease_ff.asp. Accessed Dec. 17, 2015.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 18, 2015.