Dealing with joint pain

Joints connect bones within our body, bear weight and enable one to move. They are made up of bone, muscles, synovial fluid, cartilage and ligaments.

Janvier Rusizina, a medic at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, says any damage that may occur to the joints, either from disease or an injury, can interfere with the movement, besides just causing a lot of pain to someone.

He says osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, arthritis, gout and strains are just among the conditions that can lead to joint pain.

“Joint pain can affect any part of the body, from ankles and feet to shoulders and hands. The case is even worse when one gets older because joint pain becomes more common at this stage,” he says.

He notes that there is acute joint pain that normally lasts a few days or weeks but then chronic joint pain that lasts for months or a longer time.

Rusizina adds that it doesn’t matter how long the pain will last, and that even short term pain causes discomfort and can affect one’s quality of life if they don’t get the treatment that is needed.


Whatever the cause of joint pain, Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, says one can usually manage it either with medications, physical therapy or alternative treatments.

He says for moderate to severe joint pain with swelling, medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium which can be found over the counter can help relieve the pain.

However, he advises that it’s important to first seek help from a physician before making a choice of buying the medication on your own.

Alternatively, he says, while at home, one can still prevent or treat joint pain using home remedies.

For instance, Kazungu says, one can practice resting the joint pain area; they can, however, do this by avoiding any activities that could result in pain.

“Icing the area with pain is also vital for at least 15 minutes many times a day. Elevating the joint above the level of your heart is also important and can help reduce the pain,” he says.

He adds that if the pain persists or becomes unbearable, one shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for any medical support.

Solange Uwineza, a Kigali-based physiotherapist also working with Galien Clinic in Gasabo District, says physical therapies can as well be used to relieve joint pain.

He says most of the therapies used are to strengthen the muscles around the joint, stabilise the joint, and improve the range of motion.

Ultrasound, heat or cold therapy, electrical nerve stimulation are just some of the therapies that can be applied to relieve joint pain using physiotherapy as a treatment, Uwineza says.

She advises that depending on the condition of the patient, there are procedures given by physiotherapists to their patients to be followed in order to provide effective treatment to joint pain.

For instance, she says, if one is overweight, they are advised to lose weight by embracing a healthy lifestyle.

“This is important because losing weight helps release some of the pressure on the painful joints. We normally advise patients to engage in any physical activity that will ensure the desired weight, this must also be accompanied by good nutrition,” she says.However, she notes that the patient should engage in low-impact exercises that won’t further irritate the joint, and that they are normally advised on what to do and avoid.

Uwineza adds that swimming and riding bicycles are some of the best exercises that are recommended since they allow one to exercise their joints without putting pressure on them.

“When it comes to swimming, since water is buoyant, it helps relieve some of the pressure on the joints,” she adds.

Buoyancy is the tendency of a body to float or to rise when submerged in water or fluid; also it’s the power of a fluid to exert an upward force on a body placed in.

In some cases, Kazungu says the joint pain will require one to see a doctor, and that it’s important to seek help if one doesn’t know or understand the cause of their joint pain.