HealthONE - July 25, 2018

As you age, it’s not uncommon to experience joint pain from time to time. People who engage in an active lifestyle (skiing, hiking, biking, etc.) may feel pain in their joints on occasion. Most of the time, pain from an achy knee or sore shoulder usually goes away on its own. If you have this type of joint pain, be sure to get some rest, ice the area in pain and keep it elevated.

However, sometimes joint pain persists for several days. This could be a sign that you need to see a doctor for joint pain.

When to see a doctor for joint pain
If you are experiencing joint pain, see a doctor if:

  • Your joint pain is severe
  • Joint pain doesn’t subside after five or six days
  • The joint locks, catches or gives way
  • Joint is red, hot or very swollen
  • Also, see a doctor if you are experiencing fever, chills or night sweats

It’s always best to see a doctor sooner rather than later. Even if your joint pain goes away, it can reoccur. For instance, a person experiencing osteoarthritis of the knee might feel a mild achiness that comes and goes. This joint pain will repeat itself until it worsens and becomes more severe. However, finding out you have osteoarthritis of the knee early can help alleviate this pain and prevent your knee pain from getting really bad in the future.

Finding the right doctor to treat joint pain
There are several types of healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat different types of joint pain. If you are experiencing joint pain, you might want to visit an internal medicine doctor first, who can provide you with treatment options and refer you to a physical therapist if needed. There are other doctors who treat joint pain, including:

  • Rheumatologist — An internist or pediatrician who specializes in joint diseases, like arthritis
  • Orthopedist — A physician who specializes in surgical treatments and treats injuries to the bone
  • Physiatrist — Rehabilitation physicians who specialize in non-surgical treatments.

With joint pain, there might be more than one treatment option available to you. There also might be non-surgical methods you can try before a doctor determines you need surgery for joint pain.

Preparing for your doctor’s visit
Prior to your appointment with a joint pain specialist, know that the doctor will be asking you specific questions. Most joint pain specialists will ask the following:

  • How did the pain start and when did it happen?
  • What makes the joint pain better or worse?
  • What methods have you used to alleviate the pain?
  • How severe is the joint pain?
  • Does the joint lock, catch, or give way?

Be prepared to answer all these questions during your doctor’s visit, along with knowing your full medical history. During the visit, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to see how your joint moves. In many cases, the answers you provide about your joint pain can be more telling than the physical test itself.

Joint pain is treatable. Don’t ignore the pain or assume it’s just something you have to “deal with” long-term. The sooner you see a doctor for joint pain, the better. 

Our OrthoONE providers specialize in joint repairs and replacements, fracture care, sports injuries, complex trauma care and limb injuries, bone cancer and tumor treatment, and pediatric injuries and disorders. Same-day appointments are available. Schedule an appointment