Resource type: Article

Joint stiffness and pain

Patients sometimes suffer from stiff and painful joints after Intensive Care, particularly in the ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders.This can make it difficult to do simple things like getting out of bed, walking around the ward or washing and showering. 

Why do I have joint stiffness or pain?

Patients who have spent longer in Intensive Care seem to be at greater risk of developing joint stiffness and pain. Joint stiffness and pain can be due to several things but is most likely a combination of having been very ill, being in bed in Intensive Care and muscle wasting that can make joints stiff and sometimes unstable.

What treatments are available?

Exercises can be used to help reduce the joint stiffness and, in many cases, once the joints are moving, the pain starts to reduce in the joints as well. In some cases initially you may need to take painkillers to allow movement to start happening in your joints. Once the joint starts to move, this often helps reduce the pain, and you will no longer need painkillers. If this is an ongoing issue, speak to your Physiotherapist and ask about exercises or if you are back home ask your GP to refer you to physiotherapy. In some areas you may be able to self-refer to the Physiotherapist but you will need to check this out locally.