Joint Pain: When Should You See A Doctor?

time to see a doctor for joint pain

It is not often that joint pain is ever considered an emergency; you don’t usually have to rush off to the doctor either if you are experiencing joint pain.

And usually, the milder cases of joint pain can be managed at home.

But there are times when joint pain is such that it might be best to go and see your doctor about it. 

And we are going to share with you the best time to consult a doctor when you have joint pain, so you know, in your instance, what to do.

What is joint pain?

You usually feel joint pain in the hands, feet, knees, spine, shoulders, and hips [1].

The pain can be ongoing, or it can come and go.

On some days, you feel stiff and immobile and on other days sore and achy.

Some people are known to complain of burning and throbbing sensations. For some, the joint pain is really sore in the morning.

Then as you get up and move about, it starts loosening up a bit and feeling a bit better as you become active.

On the other hand, too much activity can also make joint pain worse [2].

Joint pain affects your ability to do basic tasks

Sometimes when their pain is severe, it starts to affect the quality of their lives. Joint pain can affect people who:

  • Have had previous injuries
  • They already have arthritis and other chronic medical symptoms
  • They suffer from stress and anxiety
  • They are overweight
  • Old
  • Are in generally poor health

Causes of joint pain

  • Osteoarthritis: This is a common type of arthritis. It happens over time when the cartilage starts wearing away.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: RA causes pain and swelling in the joints. Sometimes the joints become deformed.
  • Gout: This can be extremely painful. It happens when crystals form in the body in the joint. They cause a lot of pain and swelling. Gout usually occurs in the big toe.
  • Bursitis happens to your joint through overuse. The pain can be felt in the knees, hips, elbows, or shoulders.
  • Often, viral infections, fever, and rash can make your joints painful [3].
  • Injuries occur and they cause sprains and even broken bones.
  • Tendinitis: This is an inflammation of the tendons. You typically experience tendinitis in the heels, elbows, or shoulder. Tendinitis is also usually caused by overuse.

Only sometimes should you handle your joint pain on your own

It might not be necessary to see a doctor when;

  • There is only light swelling
  • Your skin might be a bit red but there are no other very unusual symptoms
  • When you have mild pain

When should you make an appointment with your doctor for joint pain?

There are going to be times when your joint pain is particularly intense; when it is angry and aggravated – you might notice these symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and tenderness around the joint and pain if you touch it

Maybe you have only experienced joint pain because you were injured. Perhaps the injury has resulted in these symptoms and appearances:

  • You can’t use the joint
  • The joint is deformed
  • You have intense pain
  • There is swelling

How The Joint Pain Gets Treated

Often the pain goes away just simply by using over-the-counter medications. Sometimes just a few simple daily exercises help as well.

Sometimes the pain might be signaling problems that only surgery or prescription medication can help.

At-home treatments

  • Applying cold ice or heating pads to the affected area: This can help for short periods of time, especially if you do it a few times a day. Also, soaking in a warm bathtub with Epson salts can help a lot [4].
  • Exercise gets back strength and function to the joints. Walking, swimming, and other low-impact aerobic exercises work best. If you are someone participating in very strenuous workouts you might need to slow down a bit. Gentle stretching exercises also help. Always check in with your doctor before starting or continuing with any workout programs.
  • Weight loss might be suggested if you are overweight because the extra weight puts strain on your joints.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs will go a long way in easing the pain – drugs like Tylenol, or Ibuprofen. Some medicines are available over the counter but stronger medications might need a doctor’s prescription.
  • There are wonderful topical treatments like gels, ointments, and essential oils that you can rub on your skin over the affected joint area. These too might be available over the counter or you might need a doctor’s prescription.
  • Adding in healthy dietary supplements goes a long way too. Glucosamine is excellent and helps to relieve pain.

If medications or treatments don’t help

Then the doctor might prescribe these aids for you:

  • Supportive aids: These could be in the form of a brace, or orthotic devices like shoes, and canes.
  • Physiotherapy might do wonders for joint pain, ease the pain and improve flexibility.
  • Antidepressants may be prescribed to help improve sleep for a patient suffering from joint pain.
  • Steroids are given by injection into the joint, and they provide short-term relief of pain and swelling.
  • Surgery options can include arthroscopy or joint replacement.

Why it is important to see a doctor

See your doctor if you are in a lot of pain and you can’t even move your joint. You could have broken something. The joint and injury would need to be x-rayed so the doctor can take the necessary steps.

One orthopedic surgeon, Donald B. Longjohn says whether you need to get to a doctor also depends on other factors such as your age and your activity levels.

For instance, he says, “If a younger person playing sports has a serious injury that leads to a deformity or extreme pain; definitely go to an emergency room.”

Your doctor will give you a correct diagnosis.

This is especially due to the fact that joint pain has a whole lot of causes.

Maybe you have a dislocation, tendinitis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and more. Arthritis is an umbrella name for over 100 conditions.

And of course, the treatments are just as varied and many. It will all depend on the type of arthritis out of all of them which you actually have [5].

Some should be treated immediately or the damage gets worse, and permanent damage can be the result. Others will improve over time as you make some lifestyle adjustments.

Here is an excellent 3-step plan to keep your joints healthy and pain-free:

1) Reverse inflammation through diet

That means eating plenty of omega-3. Omega-3 slows down the body’s inflammatory response and reduces the existing inflammation.

Avoid added sugar as they trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Flaxseed is also excellent [6].

2) Restore function with gentle joint exercises

One of the best ways to protect your joints is through regular exercise.

Activity circulates blood flow to joints, stimulating the body’s regenerative functions. Exercise also strengthens the muscles that surround the joints.

3) Repair cartilage with a top supplement

Two outstanding and most necessary ingredients that promote joint repair are curcumin and glucosamine.

Did you know that glucosamine is produced naturally in the body? [7] It is a building block of healthy cartilage.

That’s the tough connective tissue that cushions joints.

Some studies show that when you take glucosamine, osteoarthritis can be relieved.

Curcumin is the other potent anti-inflammatory.

It’s found in turmeric; the yellow spice.

One study showed that taking 2 grams of curcumin extract provides anyone with joint pain the equivalent of taking ibuprofen for osteoarthritis of the knee [8].


Joints are truly the core building blocks of our bodies.

Because they keep us moving, we need to see that they are in good working order. Healthy joints have smooth surfaces.

They move easily. But as we get older the lubrication and shock-absorbing cartilage diminish in the joint.

This results in friction and pain from increased inflammation. Over-use of our joints can cause joint pain and a lot of other things.

We have given you fantastic reasons and methods to relieve your joint pain; also, when it is necessary to go and see your doctor.

Improving joint pain and your lifestyle is very possible with the above solutions and remedies.

It is important to take care of your joints because it is they which help to take you where you want to be every day. Remember, ‘if you ignore your health, it will go away’.