When to Visit Urgent Care for Joint Pain

September 7, 2023

Joint pain is common among several individuals and can heal without special treatment. On the other hand, some people experience severe pain, requiring utmost medical attention. In this article, you shall discover all that you need to know.

Causes and Symptoms of Joint Pain

Several factors can cause joint pain; the common causes are discussed below.

  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of inflammatory arthritis can lead to joint pain.
  • Injuries: Trauma, such as fractures, sprains, or strains, can damage the structures within a joint, resulting in pain and inflammation.
  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can affect joints, causing pain and swelling. Septic arthritis is an example of this.
  • Gout: Gout occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, causing sudden and severe pain, often in the big toe.
  • Ligament issues: Sprains or tears in ligaments, which connect bones to other bones, can cause pain, instability, and difficulty moving the joint.
  • Symptoms of joint pain can vary based on the underlying cause, but they commonly include:
  • Pain: The pain is often described as aching, sharp, or throbbing.
  • Stiffness: There is usually a reduced range of motion and difficulty moving the joint.
  • Swelling: Affected individuals may begin to notice visible or palpable inflammation around the joint.
  • Redness and warmth: Redness and warmth are common symptoms of joint pain, particularly in cases of inflammation or infection.
  • Weakness: There may be difficulty in bearing weight or performing daily tasks.
  • Fatigue: Chronic joint pain can lead to tiredness and reduced energy levels.

When to Seek Urgent Care for Joint Pain Symptoms

You should consider seeking urgent medical care for joint pain if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • If the pain is intense and sudden, or if it's accompanied by swelling, redness, and warmth around the joint.
  • If the joint pain results from a recent injury, such as a fall, impact, or accident.
  • If you have a fever and joint pain, it could indicate an underlying infection requiring prompt attention.
  • If the joint is red, swollen, and tender, and you notice any discharge, you might be dealing with an infected joint.
  • If you experience numbness or a bluish color around the joint, it could indicate reduced blood flow, which needs immediate attention.
  • If the joint pain persists for several days despite rest and over-the-counter pain relief methods. 

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosis of joint pain typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and sometimes imaging tests.

X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds may be used to visualize the joint's structure, identify any damage, and rule out certain conditions. Blood tests can also help detect markers of inflammation, infection, or autoimmune diseases that might be causing joint pain.

Below are the treatment options for joint pain.

  • Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage mild to moderate pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises can help improve joint function, strength, and flexibility while reducing pain.
  • Medications: Depending on the cause, your doctor might prescribe stronger pain medications, corticosteroids, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for autoimmune-related joint pain.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery might be necessary to repair or replace damaged joint structures. This is more common with conditions like severe osteoarthritis.

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