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How to ease joint pain

Joint pain refers to discomfort, soreness, or achiness in any part of a joint, which is where two or more bones meet. It can vary from mild to severe and may occur intermittently or persistently. Individuals experiencing joint pain often describe sensations such as:

  • Aching

  • Stiffness

  • Soreness

  • Swelling

  • Warmth

  • Sharp or shooting pain

  • Difficulty in movement


What causes joint pain?

  • Arthritis: This umbrella term includes conditions such as osteoarthritis (caused by wear and tear of the joints), rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder), and gout (caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints).

  • Injury: Trauma or injury to the joint, such as strains, sprains, fractures, or dislocations, can lead to pain and discomfort.

  • Inflammation: Inflammatory conditions like tendonitis, bursitis, or synovitis can result in joint pain due to inflammation of the surrounding tissues.

  • Overuse: Repetitive motions or activities, especially those involving weight-bearing joints like the knees or hips, can lead to overuse injuries and subsequent joint pain.

  • Infection: Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections in the joint (septic arthritis) can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling.

  • Autoimmune disorders: Conditions such as lupus or psoriasis can cause the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy joint tissues, resulting in inflammation and pain.

  • Degenerative diseases: Degenerative conditions like degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) can lead to joint pain as cartilage wears down over time.


What you can do to treat joint pain

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), or prescription medications can help reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Topical treatments: Creams, gels, or patches containing ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, or NSAIDs can be applied directly to the affected joint for localized relief.

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to strengthen the muscles around the joint, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Techniques such as massage, heat therapy, or cold therapy may also be included.

  • Joint injections: Corticosteroid injections directly into the joint can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation, particularly for conditions like arthritis.

  • Lifestyle modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, adopting joint-friendly activities, improving posture, and using supportive devices like orthotic inserts or braces can help reduce stress on the joints and alleviate pain.

  • Dietary changes: Consuming anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fatty fish), antioxidants, and nutrients like vitamin D and calcium can support joint health. Avoiding foods that may trigger inflammation, such as processed foods or excessive sugar, can also be beneficial.

  • Surgery: In severe cases where conservative treatments are ineffective, surgery may be recommended to repair or replace damaged joints, particularly for conditions like severe osteoarthritis or joint injuries.


It's essential to consult with a St. Luke’s Health orthopedic professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to individual needs and circumstances. They can provide guidance on the most appropriate interventions and monitor progress over time.

9 ways to prevent joint pain

  • Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of joint pain and inflammation.

  • Incorporate low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga into your routine to reduce strain on the joints.

  • Maintaining proper posture while sitting, standing, and lifting can help distribute weight evenly across the joints and prevent unnecessary strain.

  • When engaging in activities that involve repetitive motion or heavy lifting, use joint protection techniques such as proper body mechanics, ergonomic tools, or assistive devices to reduce stress on the joints.

  • Pace yourself during physical activities and avoid overdoing repetitive movements that can lead to overuse injuries and joint pain. Take regular breaks and vary your activities to prevent strain on specific joints.

  • Before exercising or engaging in strenuous activities, warm up with gentle movements and stretching exercises to increase blood flow to the muscles and joints and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep joints well-lubricated and maintain optimal joint function.

  • Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide essential nutrients that support joint health and reduce inflammation.

  • Wear supportive footwear, use joint braces or splints when necessary, and avoid activities that put excessive stress on the joints, especially if you have a history of joint problems or injuries.

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