Older Adults_Bars-Geriatric Pain

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 (OA), degenerative joint disease (DJD), 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 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 pain with your healthcare provider
  • Use a Pain Diary to note important information useful to the healthcare provider
  • Try a non-drug treatment and document the impact on your pain in your Pain Diary


  1. WebMD. June 15, 2021. Joint Pain. Accessed 3.13.2022. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/joint-pain
  2. Cleveland Clinic. March 28, 2018. Joint Pain. Accessed 3.13.2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17752-joint-pain
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). December 2, 2021. Joint Pain and Arthritis. Accessed 3.13.2022. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/pain/index.htm

Revised January 2022

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