Joint pain: Signs and symptoms

Man holding back

Recognising joint pain

Mechanical joint pain, can lead to significant physical1 and psychosocial2 impact for patients.

Here we review the signs and symptoms of mechanical joint pain to help you identify this disorder.

Woman holding knee

Signs and symptoms of mechanical joint pain

Mechanical joint pain, or activity related pain, most commonly affects the knees, hips and hands.3-5

Knee pain most commonly develops slowly but can also have a sudden onset, and may be aggravated by climbing stairs or rising from a chair.6

  • Identifying joint pain

    To help inform your diagnosis, consider asking your patients the following questions:

    • Where exactly is your pain? Is it one joint or any several joints affected?
    • How long has the joint been troubling you?
    • Describe the pain. Is it sharp? Or a dull ache? Does it feel sore? Or stiff?
    • Is there any swelling or tenderness in the joint?
    • Do you notice any noises when you move the joint?
    • Is the pain present all the time or does it just occur when you move, or perform any particular activity?
    • Does the joint feel stiff in the morning? If so, does this stiffness ease off once you start moving? How long does it take to improve?
    • Does the pain ease after you have rested? Or does resting make the joint stiff?
    • Have you lost any mobility in the joint? Can you still use it in the same way as you always could?
  • When to refer your patient for further care

    Patients should be referred to a physician if they report:7

    • Symptoms of gout including redness and heat in the joint
    • Swelling, warmth and stiffness after an injury

Understanding joint pain

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Find out about the causes of joint pain.


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Learn how joint pain can be managed.


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Overview of sprains and strains

Find out about how common sprains and strains are, and meet two patients with these problems.


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Patient care resources

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