FAQs on Joint Pain

Joint pain affects millions of people who have arthritis and other chronic conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 50% of people will have symptomatic osteoarthritis by the age of 85 years. This organization estimates that 52.5 million adults in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, which causes joint pain. In addition, almost 300,000 children have a rheumatic or arthritic condition that causes joint pain.

What are the causes of joint pain?

Hip pain can be long-lasting, debilitating, and severe (chronic pain), or it can be short-term and mild (acute pain). Even short-term pain of the joint affects quality of life. Numerous conditions cause joint pain. Chronic joint pain is caused by:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) – This occurs when the protective cartilage covering bones wears away, and the bones rub together. The friction causes joint swelling and pain, which worsens as the cartilage breaks down further. OA worsens with age and leads to significant joint pain.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – This debilitating condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the joint lining leading to inflammation and pain.
  • Gouty arthritis – While gout mostly affects the knee and great toe, it can affect the hip joint. Gout is caused by a buildup of needle-like crystals in the joints, which are extremely painful.

What risk factors increase the likelihood of joint pain?

The cause of joint hip pain is often unknown. Certain risk factors increase a person’s chance of developing hip pain. These include:

  • Increasing age – Aging people have more arthritic pain.
  • Female gender – Women are more likely than men to have joint pain and arthritis.
  • Weight – Being overweight or obese increases chances of joint pain.
  • Lifestyle – Heavy lifting on the job and labor-intensive work increases joint pain.

How is joint pain treated?

For mild pain, the doctor may recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications are available over-the-counter, or you can get prescriptions for them. Other treatment options include:

  • Prescription only medications – The doctor can prescribe analgesic medications for the pain, but these are only recommended short term.
  • Topical agents – Capsaicin is a substance in chili peppers that blocks substance P, which transmits pain signals. This medication triggers the release of endorphins (chemicals in the body), which are associated with relieving pain. Methyl salicylate (BenGay) is also used for hip pain, as is Aspercreme.
  • Steroid joint injections – For chronic joint pain, the doctor may inject the joint with a long-acting corticosteroid. If fluid is present on the joint, the doctor will aspirate the fluid in a procedure called arthrocentesis. Indications for steroid injections are inflammatory arthritis and advanced osteoarthritis. Knee joint aspirations are done when an effusion is present, with a success rate of 93%.
  • Physical therapy – To strengthen muscles around the joint, stabilized the joint, and enhance range of motion, the doctor may order a short course of physical therapy. Techniques used include electrical nerve stimulation, manipulation, ultrasound, heat therapy, and cold therapy.
  • Hyaluronic acid injections – For knee arthritis, the doctor can inject the knee with hyaluronic acid (Synvisc, Orthovisc, Hyaluron). This substance mimics joint synovial fluid and offers lubrication to the joint.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections – The doctor can inject the joint with PRP. This stimulates healing, decreases pain, and restores joint function.


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