Morning Mix


Mercy Health talks about the difference between good and bad joint pain

Posted at 12:11 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 12:11:29-04

If you suffer from arthritis and chronic joint pain, know you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults with arthritis experience persistent pain. One in four says their joint pain is severe.

Dr. Tim Henne, an orthopedic surgeon with Mercy Health Orthopedics, discusses how to differentiate good pain from bad, and how to know when it's time to see a doctor.

Joint pain can be discomfort, pain or inflammation arising from any part of a joint. Most commonly, joint pain refers to arthritis, which is inflammation or pain from within the joint itself. Some common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness or decreased range of motion.

Joint pain can be mild, causing soreness only after certain activities, or it can be severe, making even limited movement, particularly bearing weight, extremely painful.

There is such a thing as good pain. The most common type of good pain is clinically referred to as “delayed onset muscle soreness,” or DOMS for short. This occurs as the result of challenging a muscle or muscle group with exercise. One to two days after exercising a soreness will be felt in the belly of the muscle. It can be quite tender to touch and tends to be spread out over a large area.

With this type of soreness, the muscles actually remodel and become stronger and more efficient. If you had gone back to the batting cages once the pain had subsided, the pain response would have been much less pronounced the second time because of the adaptive changes of the muscles. In this case, “No pain, no gain” holds true.

“Bad pain” comes in many forms. The most common type of bad pain that I see in the clinic involves joint pain. When pain occurs in a joint (such as the knee) rather than in muscle (the quadriceps), it is the body trying to tell us that something is not right. Do not try to work through joint pain while working out. If it occurs each time that you exercise you should have it checked out by your doctor. If your pain is sudden and sharp, stop whatever you are doing and have it assessed.

Another type of pain that should be brought to the attention of a health care professional is radicular pain or pain that shoots from one area to another. Pain that shoots down your arm or leg may be spinal in origin. Pressure or trauma to the nerve roots as they exit the spinal column tends to be manifested in this way.

It is always a good idea to be assessed by a doctor if the pain is recurrent, or if you cannot decide if the pain you are experiencing is “good” or “bad.” Pain can very often be brought under control and even eliminated with proper guidance from your doctor.

Orthopedic surgery is the alternative most patients turn to after more conservative treatments did not help them get back to their normal daily activity.

Mercy Health surgeons will not operate on you if you have not tried other non-surgical options. Surgery is usually the last resort, and many people are surprised when they visit the surgeon and they tell them it is not time for surgery.

Bad Pain Warning Signs

  1. Sudden, sharp join pain (knees, shoulders, etc.)
  2. Shooting pain down arms and legs
  3. Pain associated with weakness
  4. Pain that hasn't subsided after two weeks of ibuprofen and rest
  5. Night pain lasting more than a few days

Learn more at or (616)-520-8802.