What Are the Best Ways to Find Immediate Gout Pain Relief?

A person with their hands on their right foot. There is redness around the joint of the big toe, depicting swelling and pain from gout.
  • Gout is an incurable condition that can be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes, in addition to medication, such as anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • People who’ve experienced an acute attack of gout may have flare-ups throughout their lives.
  • There are simple tips to prevent gout flare-ups, including avoiding your triggers and making lifestyle and dietary changes.
  • Though gout is not life-threatening, it can lead to serious health complications.

According to the Alliance for Gout Awareness, around 9 million Americans have gout — and 4.5 days of work are missed each year by those affected by the condition.

People with gout have an increased risk of other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. In addition, other comorbidities — such as erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis — have also been reported by those with gout.

Research shows that gout is on the rise in the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, and China, with men being more likely to develop the condition than women.

In this article, we’ll go into detail about gout, what gout pain feels like, gout pain relief, available treatment options, and preventative measures.

What is Gout?

Gout, sometimes called gouty arthritis, is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes a sudden onset of pain in the joints. Swelling, tenderness, and redness frequently accompany the pain.

While gout typically attacks the big toe, other joints may also be affected. A gout attack or gout flare-up may occur when triggered by certain foods or medications.

Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the joints that causes pain and inflammation. This is known as hyperuricemia — a condition where too much uric acid is produced, or the body cannot expel enough uric acid due to, for example, impaired kidney function.

There is currently no cure for gout, but gout pain can be managed with the correct lifestyle adjustments and medication.

Key Point: What is Chronic Gout?

According to the American Kidney Fund, you are considered to have chronic gout if you:

  • Experience two or more gout attacks annually
  • Have more than one joint affected by gout
  • Frequently experience gout pain
  • Have only short breaks between gout attacks
  • Have permanent joint damage, deformities, or stiffness

Which Parts of the Body Does Gout Affect?

Gout is a disease that attacks the joints. It typically occurs in one part of the body at a time, and the big toe is most often affected. This is because uric acid crystallizes in cooler temperatures, and because the big toe is furthest from the heart, it is often the coolest part of the body.

Gout can cause severe pain, swelling, and tenderness in other parts of the body, such as the:

  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Elbows
  • Wrists
  • Fingers
  • Lesser toe joints

What Causes Gout?

Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the body. If your kidneys cannot keep up with filtering the uric acid, it crystallizes in various joints, causing painful inflammation.

There are certain factors that greatly increase your chances of developing gout. The good news is that many risk factors are controllable and can be reduced with a few lifestyle and dietary changes — we’ll talk about these later on.

Gout Risk Factors

You increase your chances of uric acid buildup (hyperuricemia) if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are male
  • Consume too much alcohol
  • Use certain medications
  • Consume too much sugar, especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup
  • Consume purine-rich foods, such as seafood and red meat (especially organ meats)
  • Have certain comorbidities, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or congestive heart failure
A man is leaning over and grasping his foot. He is grimacing and clearly appears to be in pain, likely from a gout flare-up.

What Does Gout Pain Feel Like?

Gout pain may vary depending on the severity of the flare up, but a sudden gout attack — sometimes also called an acute attack — typically happens at night.

Gout flare ups are characterized by:

  • Sudden, intense pain in one or more joints
  • Burning or tingling sensations in the affected joints
  • Unbearable pain when even the slightest pressure is applied to a joint
  • A difficulty or inability to move certain joints, which may result in limited range of motion
  • Pain and swelling in and near the affected joint
  • Heat and tenderness around the joint
Key Point: Why Do Gout Flare-Ups Happen at Night?

Because we lose moisture through breathing and sweating while we sleep, the water content of our blood decreases.

When we lose water, the concentration of uric acid increases, which leads to excess uric acid in the joints.

In addition, nighttime temperatures are lower, and uric acid crystals form easily in lower temperatures. Therefore the toes — being the coldest parts of our body — are commonly affected by gout pain.

What Causes a Gout Flare-Up?

Those who’ve experienced gout once in their lifetime will probably get gout flare-ups or recurrent gout attacks months or years later.

The warning signs of a gout flare-up are more or less the same as the symptoms of gout, such as warmth, pain, or swelling around a joint. That said, it’s quite normal to experience no symptoms between gout attacks.

However, if you know you’ve been overindulging in certain foods, you may expect an attack of gout pain.

Gout can flare up for several reasons. Knowing your gout triggers can help you prevent it from flaring up.

What are the main triggers of gout?

Gout affects people differently. Some people may be able to tolerate certain foods better than others, for example.

Keeping a log of what you eat and the medications you take can help you identify your triggers.

Some "foods" that trigger gout pain can include:

  • Sugary drinks
  • Purine-rich foods, such as red meat, and seafood like tuna and shellfish
  • Alcohol

Some treatments, conditions, and diseases that can trigger gout include:

  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications (including aspirin and high blood pressure medication)
  • Surgery, injuries, or sickness that put strain on the body
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Losing weight too fast during restrictive diets
A collection of high-purine foods as shrimp, red meat, and more.

What are Some Complications of Gout?

Kidney stones

Those with gout are more prone to developing kidney stones, as crystals attract other elements to form stones in the urinary tract.

Gout flare-ups

Anyone who has had gout before can experience flare-ups afterward. If uric acid levels are not controlled through diet and lifestyle changes, gout can become chronic.

Joint damage

Repeated gout flares can greatly impact the joints and lead to permanent joint deformities. Depending on how bad the damage to the joints is, surgery may be required to fix them.

Increased risk of developing other disorders

High uric acid levels that cause gout can also increase the risk of many other disorders and diseases, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression

How Do I Relieve Gout Pain?

The moment you notice the first symptoms of gout pain, you should start treatment quickly as this decreases the severity of the episode and helps prevent any permanent joint damage.

There are some simple things you can do to relieve gout pain. When you see the first signs of gout, you should:

  • Take medication to reduce pain. Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen can bring immediate gout pain relief. Do not take aspirin as this can worsen gout.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water will help your body expel excess uric acid.
  • Lower uric acid production. Cutting down on foods that increase uric acid levels, like red meat and fish, can relieve gout pain.
  • Take the pressure off the affected joint. For example, if your big toe is affected by gout, you can relieve the pain by leaning on a cane when you walk or keeping your foot elevated when sitting or lying down.
  • Apply ice. Icing the affected joint can provide immediate gout pain relief and reduce inflammation.
  • Contact your doctor. They can prescribe medication to lower uric acid levels and ensure that you’re on track with your gout management efforts.

Immediate Gout Pain Relief vs. Long-Term Gout Pain Relief

The measures listed above will help ease a gout episode by bringing relief, but if you really want to manage your gout pain and reclaim control of your life, you need to think long-term.

By making changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can decrease the risk of developing recurrent gout pain.

What Are Some Gout Treatment Options?

Use medication

There are a variety of drugs that can be used to treat gout. These include colchicine and corticosteroids.

You can also use medication to prevent gout complications. These medications reduce uric acid levels by preventing the production or aiding the removal of uric acid from your body. Some examples include allopurinol and probenecid.

A close-up of fresh cherries. Some are in the foreground and some are in the background in a container.

Gout Treatment: Lifestyle Factors

You can control most of the lifestyle factors that contribute to gout by:

  • Performing certain types of exercises regularly
  • Lowering your stress levels (stress may be a trigger for gout in certain people)
  • Avoiding activities that put strain on your joints
Key Point: Can Stress Cause Gout?

High stress levels may be associated with gout pain as there is less vitamin B5 in the body when it is under stress.

Vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid, helps the body expel uric acid. When there is less vitamin B5, the body may not be able to get rid of excess uric acid. This uric acid then forms crystals in the joints, which leads to gout pain.

Diet for Gout

Following a healthy diet that includes all food groups in their proper proportions will improve your overall health and reduce the risk of many medical conditions, including gout.

However, if you have had gout and would like to prevent future flare-ups, you should follow this gout diet plan:

  • Limit your alcohol intake or avoid alcohol completely.
  • Low purine diet for gout: Follow a low purine diet (which entails avoiding certain foods, such as fish and organ meats).
  • Consume more foods high in vitamin C, such as cherries and lemon juice.

Lose weight

When you carry less weight, you’ll take the stress off your joints and decrease your chances of flare-ups. Losing weight may also decrease your uric acid levels.

Close-up of two feet on a digital scale, with a paper tape measure in the foreground

How To Prevent Gout Flare-Ups?

If you’re serious about avoiding gout attacks, you need to commit to healthy lifestyle changes.

Exercising regularly (choose activities that are gentle on your joints), reducing your alcohol intake, and eating a balanced diet will greatly reduce your chances of recurrent gout flare-ups.

Identify your triggers and try to avoid them. For example, it’s important to know how much tuna you can put in your salad — if any at all.

Being mindful of what you eat and how often you exercise will improve your overall health and also help you avoid gout pain.

Key Point: What are Some Tips for Exercising With Gout?

When your joints are affected by a disease, movement of any kind can feel painful or even unbearable. Exercise is important for overall health improvement, and it’s an effective way to prevent gout flare-ups; however, it must be done properly to avoid injury.

Here are a few tips you can follow to ensure you incorporate exercise safely into your gout treatment plan:

  • Start with gentle, low-intensity exercises, like stretching.
  • Incorporate aerobic exercises into your routine, such as swimming and cycling.
  • Stay clear of high-intensity activities —especially during a gout attack or directly after a flare-up.
  • Be mindful of hydrating while exercising—opt for water and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Do not restrict your diet too much if you’re trying to exercise to lose weight, as this can increase the risk of a recurrent gout attack.
  • If exercising is too painful or difficult, consult your doctor (you may require physical therapy before starting an exercise program on your own).

When Should I See a Doctor for Gout?

Although gout isn’t life-threatening, it can cause a variety of serious health complications. Untreated gout also contributes to joint deformities and a limited range of motion.

To avoid these issues, contact your doctor if any of the following symptoms appear:

  • Pain in the big toe
  • Sudden and severe pain at night
  • Intense joint pain
  • Joints that are tender, red, or inflamed
  • Reduced range of motion

Where Can I Learn More About Gout Pain Relief?

Whether you need fast relief or you want to make lasting changes to properly manage gout, LifeMD can help. Schedule a video appointment with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner.

Dr. Jonathan Guirguis

Dr. Guirguis attended Nova Southeastern University for medical school and stayed in South Florida to train in Internal Medicine. Born outside Chicago, he slowly made his way down south, settling in Texas with his wife and three children.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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