Joint Pain: When to treat at home, when to see a doctor
There are many causes of joint pain: An achy back after a day in the yard; a sore knee after a pick-up basketball game or a sore neck after a bad night’s sleep. These can be experienced after a day of overdoing your favorite activity or a noticeable gradual worsening during everyday tasks.
This wide-range of causes and symptoms can make it difficult to understand the source of your joint pain, how to treat it and when to see a doctor. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse and mom of three, shares her tips for knowing when to see a doctor about your joint pain.
WHAT CAUSES JOINT PAIN?
Nurse Rose: There are many different causes of joint pain. The most common include:
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Broken bone
HOW CAN JOINT PAIN BE RELIEVED?
Nurse Rose: Fortunately, joint pain can usually be relieved at home. If you’re starting to feel sore, take a break from strenuous activities and follow a few simple steps to relieve pain and reduce swelling:
- Use ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- Ice the joint for 15 to 20 minutes, a few times each day
- Use a heating pad or a warm bath to help relax muscles
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR ABOUT JOINT PAIN?
Nurse Rose: Joint pain with any of the following symptoms calls for immediate medical attention:
- Red, swollen joint that is hot to the touch
- Pain with a fever
- Difficulty moving the joint or bearing weight
- Joint looks out of place
If you’re not experiencing severe symptoms that interfere with daily life, self-care can help relieve pain. When joint pain lasts longer than a few weeks after self-care, it may be time to see your doctor. Your primary care provider will give you a comprehensive physical and may order additional diagnostic testing if needed to better understand the source of your pain.