500 Should joint pain be singular or plural when writing a report for CELBAN Writing Task 2?

Updates 2021

Corticosteroids and antibiotics are prescribed to treat joint pain and sore throats.

Hi Kim,

I have a question again!! Do I need to change joint pain? It affects multiple joints.

This question was asked by an IEN during her CELBANPrep Writing Level Two.

Dear N,

I am so very pleased! You are indeed paying attention [to your writing in a medical context for CELBANPrep Writing Level Two]. This is a very good question. And the answer is complex.
Yes, when you are speaking/writing about multiple joints you would use an -s for the plural form.
  • In using the pain scale Mr Llada reported an 8 for the pain in his joints.
  • Lillian Williams came to the clinic today due to pain in her joints.
This collocation is:

pain in [possessive pronoun] joints

However, when you are working with the collocation joint pain it is a little different.
  • Mrs Singh has joint pain in her hands.
  • The patient in bed 215, Mr Wang, has been complaining about joint pain in his fingers.
  • “My mother has had joint pain, in her knees, since the surgery,” reported the patient’s son.

Notice that when using this collocation the location of the joint is plural: hands, fingers, knees.

In this way the collocation “joint pain” is a combination of “joint” as an adjective and “pain” as an uncountable noun. (Remember uncountable nouns remain in the singular form even when referring to a plural context.)
But, when using the word “pain” alone, it can also be countable.
  • Thank you for understanding our pains and struggles. (Pain experienced by many people.)
  • I have been experiencing growing pains since I was 15. (“Growing pain” is another collocation.)
You may also see pain with an -s when it is used as a verb with third person singular:
  • It pains me to see you worried about your family back home in the Philippines. (verb)

Now I would like you to write a few sentences for me using the words “joint” and “pain” in various combinations.


Skill Practice

Instead of just reading, apply what you have learned here. Write:

  • sentences with the collocation pain in [possessive pronoun] joints
  • sentences with the collocation joint pain
  • sentences with the collocation growing pains
  • sentences with pain as a countable noun
  •  sentences with pain as a verb
You might also be interested in reading about whether sore throat, ear ache and headache should be singular or plural.

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