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Body Pain: Symptoms, Causes and Relief

  • What is body pain? Pain is an uncomfortable sensation that protects the body from harm. The nervous system detects danger and alerts the body by sending pain messages. These pain messages can vary from sharp and sudden pain to slow and dull pain.
  • At some point in our lives, most of us will experience body aches and pains. The older we get, the more likely we are to experience pain.*

*Victorian Government, Better Health Channel – Pain and pain management (adults).

Here’s some information about what pain feels like, causes of pain and treatments for body pain, so you can find relief.

Types of body pain

In general, there are two types of body pain – acute pain and chronic pain. Both types of body pain can occur either in one part of the body or may be widespread. These body aches can range in severity, and be felt as a dull ache to a sharp stab.

Acute body pain

Acute body pain usually occurs because of an injury or a medical condition. It’s often associated with tissue damage and swelling. Acute pain can start suddenly but normally fades as the damage heals – this can take a few moments, days or weeks.

Chronic body pain

Chronic body pain is pain that has been present for 3 months or longer, or beyond the time expected for an injury to heal. It can be due to several factors, such as an ongoing condition or disease, or problems with the nervous system. Chronic body pain can be constant or may keep on reappearing.

Knee & hip pain

Pain in the knee and hip can have a variety of causes. Knee pain can occur due to sprains, strains, tears and in some cases fractures or arthritis. Pain in the hip can also occur from injury and arthritis, and sometimes from the spine (known as referred pain).

Symptoms of injury to the knee include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Joint laxity (feeling of looseness in the joint)
  • Inability to straighten the leg
  • Pain behind the kneecap

Symptoms of hip problems include:

  • Pain in the groin area
  • Pain in the thigh or knee
  • Stiffness or feeling a reduced range of motion
  • Weight-bearing pain.

To reduce knee pain or swelling following injury, make sure you rest the injured joint at first, and in the next 48–72 hours, apply ice packs for 15–20 minutes every 2 hours. Avoid alcohol and/or massaging the joint as this may make any bleeding and swelling worse. To help prevent injuries causing knee and hip pain, make sure you warm up your joints and muscles prior to any activities that use the knee and hip joints, and cool down after exercise. Try to avoid sudden movements that may injure the knee or hip – for example, turn on the balls of your feet rather than twisting through the knee or hip.

Whilst mild injuries may heal by themselves, knee and hip pain should be investigated by your doctor who can identify the cause and recommend appropriate management.

Shoulder & neck pain

Shoulder pain is common and appears deep in the joint, in the back or front of the shoulder itself or even in the upper part of the arm. Shoulder and neck pain can come from injury (e.g.,  manual labour, sports or repetitive movement), poor posture or lack of use following an injury. Osteoarthritis can also cause shoulder and neck pain.

The many causes of shoulder and neck pain each have their own unique set of symptoms. Some conditions cause weakness in the shoulder/upper arm or neck, or pins and needles if nerves from the neck are involved. If the shoulder is dislocated, there may be a sensation of the joint slipping out and back into the joint socket. Whiplash injury can also cause neck pain, light-headedness, headache, and neck stiffness.

For the temporary relief of shoulder and neck pain or stiffness, try using heat and cold packs. Gentle mobilisation exercises can help to maintain movement and prevent muscle weakness following injury that causes should and neck pain. To help prevent neck pain from occurring in the future, try improving your posture – correct your posture whilst sitting or standing by rolling up from your pelvis to ‘stand tall’, and drawing your shoulders back.

Back pain

Back pain is a common type of pain – around 1 in every 6 Australians reported back problems in 2014-15.** Common causes of back pain include heavy lifting, moving awkwardly, inactivity, poor posture, being overweight and muscle tension (which can be caused by stress).

For more information on back pain,  .

**Victorian Government, Better Health Channel – Back pain.

There are many other conditions that can cause in body aches, including period pain, dehydration and infection. If you are concerned about body pain, speak to your doctor

Joint pain

Joint pain commonly occurs when fluid accumulates in the tissues around the joints, resulting in swelling and difficulty moving. This can happen if you injure or overuse the joint, or if there is an infection in the joint.

Symptoms vary from person-to-person, but joint pain is often accompanied by stiffness, aches and a feeling of heat or warmth in the affected joint. People with joint pain may have problems moving around and completing everyday activities like dressing themselves.

If you have injured your joint and are experiencing pain, try to protect the joint from further harm by resting it. Use icepacks for 15–20 minutes every 2 hours and elevate the joint to help reduce swelling. You may find using a compression bandage can provide support to help with movement. After a few days, your doctor may suggest or you may feel ready to increase your level of mobility with gentle exercises that don’t place too much pressure on the joint – for example, swimming, aqua aerobics, tai chi, cycling or walking.

Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains are soft-tissue conditions that affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Strains injure muscles or tendons, and are usually caused by a fall, twist or over stretching. Sprains on the other hand are caused by stretching and sometimes tearing of ligaments within a joint.

Symptoms of strains can include pain, muscle spasms and muscle weakness. Typical symptoms of sprains are pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation that may limit how well you can move a limb or joint.

If you have a strain or sprain, perform first aid by stopping any activity and resting the injured area. Use icepacks on the injured area for 15–20 minutes every 2 hours and a compression bandage to firmly wrap the injury. It’s a good idea to elevate the injured area if possible, and avoid heat, alcohol, and massage of the affected area in the first 72 hours after the injury, as this can increase swelling. Depending on the severity and type of sprain or strain, after a few days you may be able to begin gentle exercises to aid healing, strength, and flexibility, under the guidance of your doctor.

Body pain relief

For relief of body pain, anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen can help. Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen, helps to relieve inflammation and pain. Nurofen provides temporary relief from pain and inflammation for up to 8 hours.*** It can be taken with just a glass of water. Click here to find out more on the Nurofen range.

When to see your doctor

Seek medical assistance if your pain is intense, the result of an injury or if you are concerned about your pain for any reason.

Don’t put off a visit to your doctor if your pain persists or worsens, or if you are experiencing other symptoms.


***Malmstrom K et al 1999, Malmstrom K et al 2004, Mehlisch DR et al 2010 (RB sponsored).


This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

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