• October 2, 2023
  • Dr Peter Landsberg

Last updated on October 2, 2023

A guide to arthritic pain and how to alleviate your symptoms.

For many Australians living with arthritis, describing the pain isn’t as straightforward as saying it’s just an “ache” or “discomfort”. The experience can be multifaceted, affecting both physical and emotional well-being. So, what does arthritis pain feel like?

In this post, we’ll delve deeper into what joint pain feels like, how it impacts the lives of those affected, and what can be done to alleviate it.

If painful arthritis is holding you back, contact ArthritisCARE and make an appointment with one of our Rheumatologists. Our comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to treat all aspects of arthritis, not just the physical symptoms.

What Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like

Understanding the type of arthritis and associated pain and symptoms is the first step in the effective management of your condition.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis isn’t just one condition, but a collection of autoimmune and other other joint diseases. The signs and symptoms you have will depend on what type of arthritis you have. You can explore our comprehensive guide on available arthritis treatment here.

Different types of arthritis.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, including:

The most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, however, at ArthritisCARE we see and treat many forms. You can find a more extensive list here.

What causes the pain felt with arthritis?

The primary cause of the pain is joint inflammation in the affected joint. This leads to swelling, stiffness and tenderness. Other causes of pain can include:

  • Joint damage caused by a breakdown of the cartilage, ligaments or tendons
  • The presence of uric acid crystals in your joints (such as in gout)
  • Damage or inflammation to the joint lining

You can see how the type of arthritic disease you have can determine the cause of your pain. For example, rheumatoid arthritis pain is caused when your immune system attacks your healthy tissue, causing inflammation and painful swelling of many joints at once. In comparison, osteoarthritis pain is caused when the cartilage in a joint is damaged and may only impact one or a few joints at a time.

What does the arthritis pain feel like?

Again, the pain can change depending on what type of arthritis you have. This is why a Rheumatologist is the best doctor to consult if you suspect you are developing arthritis. They are experts at differentiating between the different arthritis symptoms and forming an accurate diagnosis.

So what do painful arthritic joints feel like?

  • The pain from arthritis can come and go, or be constant
  • It can be dull and persistent or sharp and sporadic
  • It may be a burning sensation or a throbbing pain
  • You may experience only slightly painful joints or more severe pain
  • It can occur after moving or exercising, or when you’re at rest
  • You may have pain and stiffness in the morning, or all-day
  • The pain can be just in weight-bearing joints, two or more bones, the small joints, the same joints on either side of your body, or all different parts
  • You may experience joint swelling or no swelling at all

So, as you can see the pain and joint symptoms associated with arthritis are broad and vary widely between people.

What Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like

What does arthritis pain feel like? It varies for each of the different types of arthritis, so it is important to understand all you can about your condition so you know what to expect.

The physical impact of pain.

Pain can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life. It can lead to:

  • Physical (and emotional) fatigue, or chronic fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Decreased mobility
  • Restricted movement
  • Changes to your cardiovascular system or brain structure
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Pain from arthritis is not an isolated experience, but a complex and holistic reaction requiring appropriate management and medical treatments.

The emotional impact of pain.

Beyond the physical aspects of acute or chronic pain, there can be a profound emotional impact. It can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression. Chronic pain may also affect your self-esteem, confidence and overall outlook on life.

How to alleviate the pain.

There are many things you can do to alleviate the pain associated with your particular type of arthritis. A Rheumatologist can work with you to form a treatment plan to help manage your symptoms and live with arthritis.

Lifestyle modifications and therapies

Simple lifestyle changes can make a world of difference:

  • Exercise regularly to keep the joints mobile. Low-impact activities like swimming, walking or yoga are best
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the strain on joints
  • Eating a healthy diet can reduce symptom severity

Other therapies can also reduce pain and other symptoms:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Physical therapy with a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist or a massage can provide pain relief
  • Modifying your home to protect your joints with things such as stair rails, shoe horns or grippers
how to alleviate arthritis pain

Low-impact exercise like swimming is a great way of relieving pain associated with arthritis, as well as improving your overall health and fitness.

Medical intervention

If joint pain is persistent or limits you from your daily activities, there are other options your health care professional can recommend to manage pain:

  • Pain relief such as paracetamol
  • Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen
  • Prescription medications, depending on the type of arthritis
  • Medications to support your immune system
  • In severe cases, joint replacement surgery or other surgery may be recommended

Further support and resources.

Living with arthritis and joint pain may be challenging at times, but you are not alone. Check out our page of helpful resources, groups and organisations created to offer support for those people with arthritis. Find it here.

Understanding your arthritis and the associated pain and symptoms is your first step in managing your condition effectively. With the right knowledge, support and treatment plan, you can live a full and happy life.

How to Contact Us

Enquiries / Appointments

Phone: (07) 3255 1066
Fax: (07) 3521 6780
Email: admin@arthritiscare.com.au


24 Railway Terrace
Dutton Park QLD 4102
For more information please see our contact page.

Working Hours

Mon to Friday: 8.00am – 4.00pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: Closed


What does arthritis pain feel like? Below are some frequently asked questions about arthritis symptoms and pain.

How do I know if my pain is from arthritis?

The only definitive way to know is to have arthritis diagnosed by a healthcare professional. They can help you identify the pain and what is causing it, as well as treatment options for your pain and stiffness in the affected joints.

Does arthritis hurt all the time?

No, not necessarily. The pain can be intermittent, with “flares” (periods of intense pain or worsening symptoms) and periods of no pain at all. However, some people may experience persistent pain in the joint affected by arthritis.

What is pain from arthritis like?

The pain you may experience will vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis you have. It may be dull or sharp, burning or throbbing. It can be associated with swollen joints or no swelling.

How can I stop the pain from arthritis?

There are many ways you can manage the common symptoms of pain and swelling of arthritis:

  • Pain medicine
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Regular, low-impact exercises
  • Eat a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight
  • Physical therapies

What is the main cause of arthritis associated pain?

The primary cause is either inflammation of the joints, damage to the joint cartilage, or too much uric acid causing crystals to form in the joint capsule. Different arthritis affects your body and other joints in a variety of ways, so to have arthritis treated effectively you need to know the type and cause.

What is the fastest way to relieve pain caused by arthritis?

The fastest way is to use cold or heat packs, take over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications or use gentle stretches to relieve stiffness. Please consult with your doctor or a qualified pharmacist before taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

What is the best medicine for pain caused by arthritis?

The best pain medication to manage arthritis depends on the type and severity. There are over-the-counter medications like paracetamol or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Prescription medication for an autoimmune disease such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can be helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis. Your Rheumatologist can recommend the best course of treatment for your individual condition.

Dr Peter Landsberg

About The Author

Dr Peter Landsberg

Dr Peter Landsberg practices general Rheumatology with a special interest in inflammatory arthritis and connective tissue disorders. His holistic approach to medicine stems from the 12 years he spent as a GP before studying Rheumatology. On weekends you’ll find him trying (not always successfully) to stay upright on his mountain bike as he rides downhill tracks. Or out on Moreton Bay in his well-used tinnie, fishing with his family and the dog!

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