Living with Severe Joint Pain

Woman being examined by doctor

Almost 15 million US adults live with severe joint pain related to arthritis. Severe joint pain limits a person’s ability to do basic tasks and affects their quality of life. Learning self-management skills and being active can help manage severe joint pain.

New Study on Severe Joint Pain

A new CDC study looked at severe joint pain among adults aged 18 years or older with arthritis. Study highlights include

  • Severe joint pain from arthritis is from the breakdown of cartilage (tissues around a joint) in the body and pain that is not managed well.
  • Severe joint pain occurs in more than one third of 54 million adults with arthritis.
  • The number of adults with arthritis and severe joint pain has increased significantly, reaching nearly 15 million in 2014 compared with more than 10 million in 2002.
  • Some groups are affected by severe arthritis pain more than others and include African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, people in fair to poor health, adults with serious psychological distress, people who are unable to work, and people with diabetes or heart disease.

Man holding knee
Among those with arthritis, pain is commonly found in the knee(s).

What to Do to Ease Severe Joint Pain

People with severe joint pain related to arthritis have multiple ways to improve how they feel and enjoy life.

  • Get physically active. CDC recommends that adults with arthritis be moderately physically active (e.g., walking, swimming, biking) for at least 150 minutes per week. We also recommend strength training. Further, physical activity has been proven to reduce arthritis pain. You can do low impact physical activity—like walking, biking, and swimming—30 minutes a day for 5 days a week to reduce joint pain. This can be done in ten minute sessions throughout the day.
  • Go to CDC-recommended physical activity programs. Particular community-based programs (such as EnhanceFitness and Walk With Ease) are helpful in learning how to exercise safely and reduce joint pain and disability related to arthritis. These programs can improve mood and ability to move as well. Classes take place at local Ys, parks, and community centers and help people with arthritis feel their best.
  • Enroll in proven programs. Adults living with joint pain can benefit from joining CDC-recommended self-management education classes, which are designed to teach people with arthritis and other chronic conditions how to control their symptoms (like severe join pain), live well with these conditions, and learn more about how to manage health problems that affect their lives.
Page last reviewed: March 7, 2017