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Pain and arthritis

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What is pain?

Pain is usually a protective mechanism that alerts your brain when damage has occurred. It can have many different causes and can have emotional effects too, making you feel upset or distressed.

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Pain and the brain

Your spinal cord has special ‘gates’ that interfere with pain messages from your nerves. Once the pain signal gets to your brain, it’s further changed by even more complex systems.

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What are the most common causes of joint and muscle pain?

The most common causes of long-term joint or muscle pain are:

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Relief for arthritis, joint and muscle pain

There are now more approaches available than ever before to help manage pain. Drugs, physical treatments and coping strategies can all play a part.

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Self-help tips for long-term pain

Try the following self-help tips:

  • Learn to rest sensibly.
  • Avoid certain activities.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Use gadgets and adaptations.
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What should I do if my pain is severe?

If it's difficult for you to find other things to concentrate on and to refocus your thoughts away from the pain, you should be referred to a pain management clinic. Learning new ways to cope with pain can help.

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Research and new developments

Alongside the University of Nottingham and local NHS Trusts, Arthritis Research UK is proud to support the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre. This is the world’s first national centre for research into understanding the mechanisms of pain in arthritis.

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Pain and arthritis

Pain can be a major symptom of arthritis. We give you information and self-help tips on both short-term and chronic pain.

Search arthritis information

For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.