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Osteoarthritis Health Center

Joint Pain Not Inevitable With Age

Creaking knees, hips, and ankles aren't necessarily normal aches and pains that come with age. Your pain might be arthritis. Luckily, medicine has a lot to offer --- from exercise and alternative supplements to medications and joint replacement.
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Getting the Right Diagnosis continued...

Another good reason to see a doctor: "Many people have other conditions that can aggravate arthritis," says Jason Theodoskais, MD, MS, MPH, FACPM, author of The Arthritis Cure and a preventive and sports medicine specialist at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

For example, gout is a form of arthritis that can lead to osteoarthritis; hemochromatosis is an inherited disease involving abnormally high iron storage in the body, which causes heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Joint pain can also result from cancer that has spread to joints, he notes. "Unless we address the origin of the problem, people won't get the right treatment or pain relief," Theodoskais tells WebMD.

Common pain-related conditions:

Osteoarthritis: This is often called degenerative joint disease and is the most common type of arthritis in the over-50 crowd. As we get older, the rubbery cartilage that serves as a shock absorber to our joints becomes stiff, loses its elasticity, and becomes more susceptible to damage. As the cartilage wears away, tendons and ligaments stretch, causing pain. It can occur in almost any joint in the body - most commonly in the fingers, hips, knees, and spine.

Symptoms include joint aching and soreness, pain, and bony knots in the finger joints. Medications, painkillers, and alternative supplements (like glucosamine and chondroitin) can help relieve the pain. But lifestyle changes like weight loss may also be necessary to reduce stress on weight-bearing joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis : This form of arthritis is very different from degenerative joint disease. The inflammation occurs in joints on both sides of the body - a symmetry that helps distinguish it from other types of arthritis. However, many of the symptoms sound familiar - joint pain and swelling, joint stiffness, and fatigue. Researchers believe that an external organism - like a virus or bacteria - may alter the immune system, causing it to attack the joints and sometimes other organs.

"Rheumatoid arthritis is not just a benign joint disease," Hoffman tells WebMD. "It can lead to early death. With rheumatoid arthritis, there is quite good evidence that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can help to maintain function, prevent disability, and improve survival."

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