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Body Pain: Symptoms, Causes and Relief

  • At some point in our lives, most of us will experience aches and pains in our bodies.
  • Here’s some information about different types of body pain – what they feel like, their causes and ways to find relief.
What to do
  • Staying active and doing appropriate exercises (e.g. yoga, stretching) can help reduce pain and improve physical functioning 

  • Pace your activities throughout the day so they are more manageable and don’t make symptoms worse 

  • Try applying heat or cold packs throughout the day to relieve pain, depending on what helps you and/or what your health care professional has advised 

  • Massage may be helpful for improving sleep in people with muscle pains 

  • For strains or sprains, use the RICE first aid method: rest the injury, apply ice, compress the injury with a firmly applied bandage, and elevate the injury above your heart level whenever possible

  • Visit a physiotherapist for advice on maintaining movement and footwear or devices that can help provide support

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, which can help with reducing inflammation – Nurofen can help relieve body pain for up to 8 hours*

  • See your doctor. If in doubt, it is important to get your body pain checked out

What to avoid
  • Try not to rest for long periods, unless advised by your health care professional, as it is often not helpful and may make symptoms worse

  • Avoid focusing on the pain – maintaining a positive and proactive attitude is important for recovery

  • While exercise is good, avoid demanding or heavy contact sports or activities that may worsen discomfort. Ask your doctor for guidance on what is suitable for you.

How ibuprofen can help

Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen, helps to relieve inflammation and pain. Nurofen tablets provide relief from pain and inflammation for up to 8 hours*, including back pain, muscular pain and arthritic pain. Click here to find out more on the Nurofen range.

Knee and Hip Pain

Pain in the knee can have a variety of causes, including sprains and tears caused by awkward movements, falls, sudden movements or overuse. 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

Pain in the hip can also have a variety of causes, including injuries, fractures and osteoarthritis. Symptoms of hip problems include:

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

Knee and hip pain should be investigated by your doctor who can identify the cause and recommend appropriate management.

Shoulder and Neck Pain

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body. Shoulder pain is common and can affect you at any age and can hamper your ability to move freely. It can come from a range of causes including:

  • Injury, such as a strain, sprain, fracture or dislocation
  • Inflammation of the tissues surrounding your shoulder
  • Osteoarthritis

Muscle spasms are one of the most common causes of neck pain, usually caused by:

  • Having your head or neck in an unusual position for a long time
  • Repeated or extensive movements
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Muscle strain from injury
  • Sleeping with a pillow that is too big or small

Neck and shoulder pain might also be caused by other medical conditions. See your doctor if shoulder or neck pain is concerning you for any reason. If you have neck pain plus flu-like symptoms and difficulty bending your head forward, or shoulder pain that is radiating down your arm, call your doctor immediately.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common type of pain. Common causes of back pain include:

  • Being out of shape or under stress
  • Poor posture
  • Strain through exercise or activity
  • Being overweight

Issues with the bones, discs, nerves or muscles that support your back

Joint Pain Caused by Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a chronic (long-term) disease of the joints affecting 10% of all adults in New Zealand. The knee and hip are the most commonly affected. Osteoarthritis progresses slowly over many years, with some of the signs and symptoms including:

  • Pain and stiffness in the joint
  • Swelling, most often in the knees
  • Creaking or cracking sensations when moving the joint
  • Hard growths at the ends of the bones
  • Muscle weakness, as if the joint if about to give way

Osteoarthritis symptoms can make it difficult to perform daily activities and affect mental wellbeing. If you are concerned about symptoms of osteoarthritis, see your doctor right away.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries that affect muscles, tendons and ligaments. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon (which connects the muscle to bone) is overstretched or torn, usually by putting stress on tight or weak muscles. On the other hand, a sprain is a stretching or tear in the ligament (which connects bone to another bone) usually caused by sudden, forceful twisting of a joint. Common signs of a sprains and strains are:

  • Pain, tenderness and limited movement
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Bruising

It’s important to let sprains and strains heal properly, otherwise the muscle can remain weak and painful or the same injury might happen again.

Preventing Body Pain

Improving your general strength and fitness can help you maintain good posture and protect your joints. Aim to exercise 20-30 minutes each day, gradually increasing your activity and making sure to warm up beforehand and cool down afterward. Another tip is to take frequent breaks throughout the day to change positions so you are not sitting or standing for too long – take time to stretch and move stiff areas. Finally, it’s important to learn how to lift, reach, push and pull correctly to prevent injuries.


*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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