Pharmacy Learning Centre

Joint pain glossary

Activity-limiting joint pain

Participation in an activity limited by the joint pain itself or avoided owing to fear of inducing joint pain.

Joint pain brought on by movement or activity (e.g. high impact from running, which can cause knee pain).

Aerobic exercises

Exercises that increase breathing and heart rate (e.g. swimming, cycling, walking).

Bone pain

Pain located at a site other than the joint line and associated with bone as the source. Often experienced as a dull pain that cannot be localised accurately by the individual.

Bony joints

Joints located between two or more bones without cartilage (e.g. synovial joints, such as the knee).

Chronic peripheral joint pain

Pain associated with the peripheral joints lasting more than three months (see ‘Peripheral joint‘).

Chronic joint pain

Pain associated with any joint lasting more than three months.


A physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ effect on the ability to do normal daily activities (Equality Act 2010).


A painful, subjective symptom that is mild (<4/10 pain severity).

Flexibility exercises

Activities designed to increase range of movement in a joint or muscle (e.g. stretching).


The body’s natural immune response to trauma or cell damage involving increased blood flow to the site of injury and the release of proteins and antibodies to prevent further harm. However, long-term or chronic inflammation can be harmful.

Inflammatory arthritides

Inflammation of the joints associated with an underlying auto-immune response.

Immediate pain

Pain felt acutely following onset of a trigger (e.g. following weight bearing exercise).

Joint pain

Local pain present in one or more joints. Also known as arthralgia.

A feeling of tightness in the joint resulting in limited or restricted movement of a joint.

Local strengthening exercises

Targeted, resistance exercises designed to enhance muscle strength.

Mechanical pain

Prolonged pressure or tension on nervous tissue (e.g. joints, bones or soft tissue) that is movement or activity related with no acute inflammation or acute tissue damage.

Mechanical joint pain

Activity or movement-related joint pain.


A clinical syndrome of joint pain accompanied by varying degrees of functional limitation and reduced quality of life (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). A common form of arthritis typically with onset during middle or old age that is characterised by progressive degenerative changes in the cartilage of one or more joints (as of the knees, hips, and hands) accompanied by thickening and overgrowth of adjacent bone. Generally marked symptomatically by stiffness, swelling, pain, deformation of joints and loss of range of motion.

Participation restriction (joint pain-related)

Limited participation in an activity owing to fear of triggering joint pain or following the onset of joint pain.

Peripheral joint

Joints not in and around the spine (e.g. shoulder, knee, ankle).

Persistent pain

Pain which is present for longer than expected after injury or illness.

Problematic pain

Pain that noticeably becomes severe enough to interfere with a person’s day.


Affecting or relating to the root of the spinal nerve.


Sensation of tightness or difficulty moving experienced in certain parts of the body (e.g. joints or muscles).

Strengthening exercises

Exercises designed to increase muscle strength, size, power and endurance (e.g. climbing stairs, weight-bearing exercises, heavy gardening, hill walking).

Associated with use or movement.

Limb pain

Pain that is felt in a specific limb.

Limb discomfort

Mild pain (<4/10 pain severity) felt in a specific limb.

Limb stiffness

Tightness felt in a specific limb.

Weight bearing

An individual’s ability to support the weight of their body.

Weight-bearing exercise

An activity that requires movement against gravity while staying upright.