Severe arthritis joint pain (rated seven or higher on a scale of zero to ten) affects approximately 15 million people every year1. Arthritis joint pain refers to pain or discomfort felt in or around the body's joints, caused by one of multiple types of arthritis. The most common of these is osteoarthritis (OA).2A

In this guide, we cover the different types of arthritis that may cause arthritis joint pain, common symptoms experienced, and treatment options.

The Different Types of Arthritis

"Arthritis" is a large umbrella term2B that refers to any condition that affects one or more joints in the body, the tissues surrounding the affected joint(s), and other connective tissues.

Joints are located at the connecting areas where two bones meet3, and they allow for movement. There are over 200 joints4 throughout the entire adult human body. This may explain why there are currently over 100 different types of arthritis2C, each affecting different joints and body parts.

Below are a few of the most common types of arthritis people experience.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis.5A This condition is referred to as a "wear and tear" disease as it tends to occur with increased age.

OA involves a breakdown of the cartilage.5B Cartilage is substance that provides cushioning between bones and prevents grating. Over time, thinning cartilage increases the chances of bone rubbing and bone re-shaping, ultimately changing the form of the joint.

This form of arthritis tends to affect joints in the hands, knees, and hips5C, causing pain, stiffness, or swelling in these areas. It also tends to occur more in women than in men, though it is not clear why.5D

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition6A that causes flare-ups of arthritis symptoms. In RA, your immune system begins to attack the healthy cells and tissues surrounding your joints. It tends to occur mostly in the hands, wrists, and knees,6B causing inflammation, tissue damage, and chronic pain.

Health professionals believe that there is a genetic component linked with the development of RA7A, though other risk factors6C play a role as well. These include increased age, obesity, smoking history, and gender.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is another common type of arthritis in which the immune system causes flare-ups of arthritis symptoms8 in the joints, tendons and ligaments.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a spinal arthritis affecting the joints and ligaments of the spine.9A This type of arthritis causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine9B and a loss of flexibility of the spine. In severe cases, it may lead to the fusion of back vertebrae9C.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

A common misconception of arthritis is that it only affects aging adults. And while many forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are age-related, children may develop other forms of the condition. A common type of arthritis affecting children is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).10A

JIA describes a range of disorders that causes inflammation in the joints10B, with common symptoms including joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Arthritis treatment may help to manage JIA symptoms and, in some cases, lead to remission10C.

Arthritis Symptoms

What does arthritis look like? What does arthritis feel like? Does arthritis cause swelling and how do you know if you have arthritis? These might be some of the questions on your mind.

The truth is, arthritis symptoms do vary from one type to another. This is because different types of arthritis may affect different joints throughout the body, presenting unique symptoms. That said, the most common joints affected by arthritis are the knees, hips, and hands.2D

Below are common arthritis symptoms5E you may be experiencing:

  • pain or aching
  • swelling or inflammation
  • tenderness
  • stiffness
  • reduced flexibility and/or range of motion

What Causes Arthritis Joint Pain?

With over 100 different types of arthritis, there is no simple answer to the above question.

Risk factors for developing or exacerbating symptoms of Osteoarthritis (the most common form) include:

  • Age: OA is more common in older adults.5F
  • Gender: OA tends to occur more in women than in men.5G
  • Family History: A family history of OA may increase the risk of developing OA11 later in life.
  • Inactivity: Inactivity is a common occurrence in adults with severe arthritis joint pain.12 Regular exercise helps keep the joints and surrounding muscles healthy, flexible (retains the full range of motion), and strong.
  • Overweight or Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the stress and pressure13 on your joints, which may worsen arthritic pain.
  • Overuse: Joint damage and pain may accumulate and worsen due to repetitive stress and trauma.10D

Arthritis Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no tried-and-tested cure for arthritis. The goal of any arthritis treatment is to effectively manage symptoms5H, and minimize their effect on your daily life.

So to that end, if your arthritis joint pain seems to worsen, here are some treatment options you can try to help relieve the pain.

Keep in mind that these are general arthritis pain relief treatment options and they may or may not be effective on your particular type of arthritis. Consult your healthcare provider to find an appropriate treatment plan for your type of arthritis.

OTC Treatment Options

Joint pain and inflammation are two of the most common signs of arthritis. They may be temporarily eased by over-the-counter treatment options.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), available in the form of oral tablets, may help to reduce pain and inflammation14 in arthritis flare-ups. However, it is recommended to chat with your healthcare provider before taking any medication.

Topical pain relievers, such as Biofreeze topical products, work via external application. Menthol-based and available in a variety of formats, Biofreeze topical analgesics provide targeted pain relief for sore joints.15

Hot or Cold Therapy

Heat therapy and cold therapy have long been used16 for treating acute injuries and chronic pain. Though both heat and cold are effective tools for pain management, certain injuries and pain conditions are better treated with either heat or cold. So what about arthritis conditions?

Heat application may help reduce stiffness and restore or improve mobility17, which are common symptoms of arthritis conditions. Heat increases the temperature of the skin, dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow. It also helps stiff muscles and joints loosen and relax.

Cold application, on the other hand, may be useful in numbing the pain and reducing inflammation and swelling around arthritic joints. Research has shown that cold application increases one's pain threshold and pain tolerance18, which may help in managing chronic pain, including arthritis joint pain.

Heat and cold therapy are only temporary solutions for arthritis pain, but they are easy to do by yourself, within the comfort of your home. Heat pads, hot showers, ice packs, and cold showers are some options.19

Find out more about cold therapy in our guide, here.

Find out more about whether you should use heat or ice on muscle pain, here.


If your arthritis pain is severe, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery. If other methods are not working for treating arthritis pain, consult a healthcare provider for more information.20


Physical activity may seem counterintuitive if you are struggling with joint pain or arthritis. However, the right kind of physical activity may help to manage pain, while also elevating your mood and overall health.

Participating in low-impact physical activity21, such as cycling, swimming, or yoga ensures your body stays physically healthy, flexible, and strong, while being gentle on your joints.

Pay attention to how often and how frequently you exercise as well. Try to avoid overusing certain parts of the body, which may lead to pain.

Make sure to warm up and warm down before and after exercise. This will help you avoid stiff muscles and other symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness22


Living with arthritis can be tiring and painful. Even if you're taking active measures to manage and reduce pain, arthritis can be a huge mental and emotional drain.

Make sure you take time to practice self-care in any and all forms.

Sharing your experience can also be beneficial. Look for local or online support groups to find people who understand the challenges of joint pain and joint conditions. This kind of support can help make living with arthritis much more bearable, and much more hopeful.