When to See Your Doctor About Arthritis Pain

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on November 22, 2022
1 min read

Pain, swelling, tenderness, and joint pain can be telltale signs of arthritis. Here’s when you should consider seeing a doctor for arthritis symptoms or joint discomfort.

Home treatment hasn’t helped. Minor aches and pains usually get better with ice or heat therapy or over-the-counter pain relievers. But if your symptoms don’t improve after about a week, it may be something more serious.

You have pain multiple joints.Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, can make several joints hurt. Quick treatment is important to prevent long-term damage.

Your joints hurt a lot. Your doctor should check out any severe pain so they can diagnose and treat it.

Pain doesn’t go away after rest. This can be a sign that your condition may be serious. You may need therapy, such as medications or even surgery.

Your joints turn red or hot. It may be normal for you to feel a bit stiff first thing in the morning. But if your symptoms appear suddenly or are unusual, have them checked out.

Pain and stiffness come on slowly. Symptoms that happen gradually could stem from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or another arthritic condition.

Show Sources


American College of Rheumatology.

DePuy Orthopaedics.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Arthritis Foundation.

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University.


National Institutes of Health.

The Center for Current Research.

National Internet Health.

Alternative Medicine Foundation. 

Keck Medicine of USC: “When Should You See a Doctor About Joint Pain?”

Cleveland Clinic: “4 Times to See a Doctor About Arthritis Pain.”

UMass Memorial Medical Center: “Do you need to see an orthopedic physician or a rheumatologist?”

Mayo Clinic: “Joint Pain.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Do I Have Arthritis?”

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