FAST FACTS: Joint Pain

Joint Pain

Joint pain is associated with either a trauma to or disease of the joints and is extremely common in older adults. If there has not been a traumatic injury, such as a fall, the focus of joint pain is on an inflammatory joint disease such as chronic osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, or gouty arthritis. Both OA and DJD have a slow onset and become a chronic condition. Both may respond to pain medications or physical therapy. Gout requires prescription medication during the acute attack.

Osteoarthritis (OA) / Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

  • Common sites are knees, fingers, ankles, spine, hips, feet, shoulder
  • Affects multiple sites and is caused by wear and tear on the joint
  • Signs/symptoms: joint stiffness is most common in morning, pain typical after exercise or pressure on joint, rest may not relieve pain in the affected joint

Gouty Arthritis

  • Most common site is the big toe, followed by ankles, heel, knee, wrist, and fingers
  • Seen in men over age 35 and woman after menopause
  • Caused by increased levels of uric acid
  • Signs/symptoms: red, hot, swollen, and/or inflamed joint but NO morning stiffness

Traumatic Injury

  • Dislocation or ligament/tendon injury; sudden onset of pain/swelling after a trauma;
  • Immobilize the injury site and call your loved one’s healthcare provider, ice may help

Possible Intervention(s)

  • Osteoarthritis / Degenerative Joint Disease
  • Try early morning range of motion or low impact exercise
  • If pain is in response to exercise, rest the joint; ice or heat may also help
  • Medication is often needed to relieve the pain
    • Gouty Arthritis
  • Medication typically needed at the onset of an attack
  • Prevention is KEY: avoid alcohol and foods high in purines which are the chemical compounds that cause uric acid (get list from healthcare provider)

What Else You Should Do

  • Write down and share information about your loved one’s pain with their healthcare provider
  • Use a Pain Diary to note important information useful to the healthcare provider
  • Encourage your loved one to try a non-drug treatment and document the impact on their pain in their Pain Diary



  1. WebMD. June 15, 2021. Joint Pain. Accessed 3.13.2022.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. March 28, 2018. Joint Pain. Accessed 3.13.2022.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). December 2, 2021. Joint Pain and Arthritis. Accessed 3.13.2022.

Revised January 2022

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