How to Talk with Your Doctor About Joint Pain


To help you stay on top of your joint pain, your doctor needs to understand exactly what you’ve been experiencing. Yet pain isn’t something your doctor can see, touch, or measure directly. Instead, it’s up to you to describe.

Pain Rating and Vocabulary
Your health care team may ask you to rate how much joint pain you’re currently experiencing. Often, this is done using a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is no pain at all and 10 is the worst pain imaginable. This is a handy tool for communicating the severity of your pain.

It’s also helpful to describe the nature of your pain. The more accurate and specific you can be, the better your doctor is able to understand what you’re feeling. These are examples of adjectives that might apply:

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Dull
  • Grating
  • Radiating
  • Sharp
  • Shooting
  • Sore
  • Stabbing
  • Stiff
  • Tender
  • Throbbing

Keep a Daily Pain Journal
Consider keeping a daily journal to record how your joint pain changes from day to day. This may give you insight into things that affect your pain level. You can also share the journal with your doctor at your next appointment.

These are some of the details you may want to record:

  • here did you have pain today?
  • How severe was the pain?
  • How did the pain feel?
  • How long did the pain last?
  • When was the pain worst?
  • What made the pain better?

Don’t Hesitate to Speak Up
Some people worry that they’ll sound weak or whiny if they talk about having joint pain. But the truth is, describing your pain to your doctor makes you a good communicator, doing your part to get the treatment you need.

Take the Next Step
If you’re facing joint pain, a conversation with our ortho experts could be the first step toward relief.