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Joint pain

Joint pain is common, especially as you get older. There are things you can do to ease the pain but get medical help if it's very painful or it does not get better.

Types of joint pain

Common types of joint pain include:

You might feel pain in 1 joint, or more than 1 joint at the same time, such as your knees and hips.

Causes of joint pain

There are many possible causes of joint pain. It might be caused by an injury or a longer-lasting problem such as arthritis.

Your symptoms might give you an idea what could be causing the pain. But do not self-diagnose, see a GP if you're worried.

Common causes of joint pain and related symptoms.
Symptoms Possible cause
Pain, swelling or bruising after intense or repetitive exercise Sprain or strain
Over the age of 45, pain worse when walking and stiffness after moving Osteoarthritis
Hot, swollen joint that's more painful when you move it or press on it Bursitis
Pain and stiffness felt in both sides of your body that's worse after not moving (for example, when you wake up) Rheumatoid arthritis
Hot, swollen toe joint (usually big toe) with very bad pain that comes on suddenly Gout
Hot, swollen joint and a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery Joint infection (septic arthritis)

How you can ease joint pain

There are some things you can do to ease joint pain.

Do

  • try to rest the affected joint if you can

  • put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • take painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, but do not take ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury

  • try to lose weight if you're overweight

Don’t

  • do not carry anything heavy

  • do not completely stop moving the affected joint

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • joint pain is stopping you doing normal activities or affecting your sleep
  • the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
  • the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
  • your joints are stiff for more than 30 minutes after waking up
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have joint pain and the skin around it is swollen and feels hot
  • you have joint pain and feel generally unwell and have a high temperature or feel hot and shivery

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Immediate action required: Go to A&E or call 999 if:

  • you have very bad joint pain after a fall or injury
  • you're unable to walk or put weight on a joint
  • your joint has moved out of place
  • you have any tingling or you have no feeling in the area around the joint after an injury

Treatments for joint pain

Treatment for joint pain depends on what's causing it. Sometimes the pain might go away without treatment.

A GP might:

  • prescribe stronger painkillers
  • prescribe antibiotics if they think you have an infection
  • refer you for physiotherapy
  • refer you to a hospital for a scan or specialist treatment, for example steroid injections or surgery

Page last reviewed: 03 May 2022
Next review due: 03 May 2025