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5 Key Questions About Adult Joint and Muscle Pain

It’s no secret that as you age, your body changes. Due to stiffness, you may notice it’s a little harder to get out of bed in the morning or perhaps more difficult to bend over to tie your shoes. Whatever may ail you does not necessarily need to be an end to your activity.

How do you know when an athlete has a serious problem? Start with these questions:

1. Where is the pain? The answer can help tell you if the issue is in a joint or muscle.

  • Joint pain, or pain deep within the joint, is experienced during weight bearing or twisting.
  • Muscle pain is usually more superficial and occurs with stretching and reaching.

2. How long have you had this pain? The answer will help you determine the source of the pain and decide when to see your health care provider.

  • Pain that occurs suddenly is more likely an injury involving muscle strain or ligament sprain, infected joint or gout.
  • Long duration of unresolved pain is more likely associated with a chronic condition, such as tendonitis or arthritic changes, which should be reported to your physician.

3. What triggers the pain? The answer will help you understand your pain and when to see your health care provider.

  • Increasing your activity level can flare-up pain that is related to muscle and/or joint pain.
  • Pain without activity typically indicates arthritic changes that should be addressed with your physician.

4. How would you describe the pain? These symptoms will help decide on an appropriate treatment.

  • Stabbing pain is associated with muscle or tendon problems.
  • Achiness and stiffness are symptoms of a joint problem.
  • Burning, numbness, or tingling usually means a nerve injury.

5. How annoying is the pain? This answer will help you decide your next step for pain relief.

  • If pain is more of an annoyance, exercising and anti-inflammatory medication may help.
  • If pain is so great that it’s affecting your daily activities or sleep, you should seek consultation from an orthopedic surgeon.  


If activity triggers pain, consider that as your body ages, your bones also change. These changes are usually due to arthritis. Arthritis typically afflicts the hand, feet, spine, and large weight-bearing joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis; osteoarthritis has the highest occurrence in active people.

Arthritis can worsen over years; however, activity will not make this degenerative condition worse. You may experience an increase in symptoms after activity, but you will not escalate arthritic changes.

Activity is actually a great way to reduce the amount of arthritic degeneration. When it comes to activity and arthritis, the biggest priority is to control pain symptoms.  Options include: ice, balanced rest, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Remember to always consult with your physician prior to taking any medications.

The benefits of stretching:  In addition to being an excellent activity to incorporate into your training routine, stretching can help to expedite your return to athletic performance. These five basic stretches are a great starting point for beginning a stretching program. Your goal should be to hold these stretches without bouncing for 30 seconds, one to two times per day.


Quads: Stand on one leg and bring the leg to be stretched behind you, holding your ankle with the same hand. Keep your thighs parallel and the involved knee pointed straight to the ground. Push your involved hipbone slightly forward, being sure to keep standing up straight. Don't lean over – this does not help to increase the stretch!


Hip flexors: Kneel on the leg to be stretched with the other leg out in front of you. Slightly tuck your buttocks in and lunge forward. Try not to arch your back.


Hamstring: Prop the leg to be stretched on a small step, keeping your knee straight. Keep your back straight while you slightly lean your chest forward – hinging at your hips. Do not bend over!  Bending provides a less efficient way to stretch while putting stress on your back. 

hamstring stretch 


Part 1: Place the leg to be stretched behind you. Lunge forward while keeping your heel on the ground and knee straight. 

Part 2: Put a slight bend at the knee while keeping your heel on the ground.


Although returning to activity is the ideal goal for all athletes, it’s important to remember to listen to your body and be smart with your training. If you have any health concerns that linger or limit your daily activities, please contact your health care provider.

See more ways Aurora Sports Health can benefit you and your pursuit of fitness.

Meet the Author

Marissa Strehlow, MS, LAT, is an athletic trainer at Aurora Sports Health in Mequon and is the athletic trainer for Nicolet High School.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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