Like most people, you probably experience occasional joint pain, especially if you’re active. Oftentimes, the discomfort can be traced to a muscle, ligament, or tendon injury near a joint, such as a sprain, strain, or tendonitis.
With that said, your joint pain could also be an early sign of arthritis, especially if it begins to occur more frequently over time—and even if you are relatively young. While the risk of arthritis increases with age, it does not exclusively affect older adults. Also, it’s not uncommon for a high school sports injury to manifest as arthritis many years later.
How To Tell If Your Joint Pain May Be Caused by Arthritis
The hallmark sign of arthritis is a swollen joint. However, the swelling is usually preceded by pain and stiffness felt directly in the joint after activity. Some people describe the pain as a dull ache or burning sensation.
It’s important to pay close attention to your symptoms and what triggers them. For instance, if your knee typically begins to ache after you walk a moderate distance or climb a flight of stairs, and your discomfort quickly improves after you sit down, you should probably see a doctor to find out exactly what’s going on.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but most fall into one of two main categories: osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition that causes joint cartilage to break down and wear away over time. Osteoarthritis often affects weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees.
Inflammatory arthritis is a systemic disease that causes the body’s immune system—which normally attacks germs, viruses, and other harmful invaders—to attack the body’s own joints and tissues. One example is rheumatoid arthritis, which typically causes achiness and stiffness in the same joints on both sides of the body, such as the wrists or knees.
Arthritis has no cure, but there are steps you can take to minimize your pain and stiffness. To help you find the optimal arthritis intervention, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, how long you’ve had them, what makes them better or worse, and whether you’ve had any previous injuries around the affected joint.
In conjunction with your primary care doctor or rheumatologist who addresses the medication management of arthritis, Peter D. Vizzi, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, can administer additional treatment such as injections or surgical intervention if needed. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Vizzi at his office in Lafayette, LA, contact us today.