From walking to working, joints keep your life moving—and when one of them is hurting, your everyday routine can be thrown out of whack. Practically everyone experiences joint pain at some point. If it happens rarely and lasts only a day or two, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Joint pain that occurs frequently or lasts for several days or weeks, however, could be due to an underlying condition—and definitely warrants seeking medical advice.
Symptoms You Shouldn’t Shrug Off
Pain isn’t the only symptom that may indicate a joint problem you shouldn’t ignore. Another is a change in appearance—an aching joint may be swollen or red. It may also feel warm, tender or stiff, and you may notice reduced range of motion.
Whatever combination of symptoms you experience, if they last three days or more or occur several times in a month, you should consult a physician, the Arthritis Foundation recommends. It’s also a good idea to see a physician for intense joint pain that you can’t attribute to an obvious cause, no matter how long it lasts.
Has Joint Pain Changed Your Life?
Physical symptoms aren’t the only reasons to see a physician about joint pain—another is the effect pain has on your quality of life.
Like many people, you may have learned to live with joint pain, but at a steep cost. If joint pain is keeping you from enjoying your favorite activities, doing chores at home or performing your best at work, don’t keep putting it on the back burner. Bringing discomfort to a physician’s attention is the first step toward regaining some of the mobility and independence you may have lost. Start by speaking with your primary care physician, who may refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopaedic surgeon or rheumatologist, if needed.
Treatment Options Abound
One of the reasons it’s important to seek professional help for persistent joint pain is that a variety of conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis, could be causing it. An accurate diagnosis is essential to create an effective treatment plan.
Fortunately, your physician has a lot of options to choose from to help you find relief. These range from conservative therapies—examples include rest, exercise, physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—to pain-relieving injections to surgery, including joint replacement. Every case is different, but your physician will likely start on the conservative end of the spectrum and progress to more invasive treatments, if necessary.