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    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.

    Getting the Right Diagnosis continued...

    Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) and Temporal Arteritis (TA): These inflammatory diseases often occur together and are thought to be related. PMR is a disease involving the larger joints of the body like the hip and shoulders. TA is an inflammation of the blood vessels to the head, including the eyes. Both conditions are caused by the body's immune system reacting against itself.

    Pain and stiffness in shoulder and hip joints, fever, weight loss, and fatigue - these are all symptoms of PMR. Often the only symptom is the inability to get out of a chair easily or raising the arms to brush one's hair. The most common symptom of TA is a severe headache - and if not treated, TA can cause irreversible blindness, stroke, or transient ischemic attacks (ministrokes.)

    The cause of these disorders is not known, but they seem to occur most frequently in people of Scandinavian or Northern European descent. "Yet once it's diagnosed, the treatment is very straightforward -- prednisone, a steroid," says Gaeta. "But most people have never heard of this form of arthritis. It points to the need to talk to your doctor."

    Fibromyalgia: This chronic disorder creates pain and tenderness at numerous points throughout the body, resulting in serious sleep problems and fatigue. The cause of fibromyalgia is poorly understood, but is not related to any muscle, nerve, or joint injury. One theory is that the condition may be related to oversensitive nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Or it may be due to an imbalance in brain chemicals that control mood, lowers a person's tolerance for pain, possibly triggering a cycle of restless sleep, fatigue, inactivity, sensitivity, and pain.

    Though there is no cure for fibromyalgia, treatment is focused on managing pain, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms in an attempt to break the cycle of sensitivity, pain, and decreased physical activity.

    Low doses of antidepressant medication taken before bedtime may offer more restful sleep. Other kinds of sleeping pills are not very helpful for people who have fibromyalgia. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- including ibuprofen and naproxen -- may help decrease pain, but they should be used long-term only under the care of a doctor.

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