Joint Pain: When to treat at home, when to see a doctor

by Nurse Rose Melendez | WGTS 91.9 FM

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.


Nurse Rose: There are many different causes of joint pain. The most common include:

  • Sprains
  • Tendinitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Gout
  • Broken bone
  • Dislocation


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


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.


Rose Melendez, RN

Rose Melendez, RN

Head of Emergency Department

Rose Melendez, RN is the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center. Tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to listen to Nurse Rose live on the radio.

Need help finding a doctor? Adventist Medical Group offers Primary and Specialty Care at over 10 locations.