It's a sad fact, since early and aggressive treatment can reduce disability and permanent joint damage, according to the report, which appears in today's Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report from the CDC.
The nationwide telephone survey showed that an estimated 10.3 million people -- one-fifth of adults with chronic joint problems -- have not seen a health professional for their joint pain. Of this group, two million people say their joint problems limit their activities.
Lack of a personal doctor or health insurance kept a minority of people in the survey from getting help, the CDC reports. However, most people simply put up with their joint pain - perhaps because it is not life-threatening, because they think it's a normal part of aging, or because they believe - mistakenly - that there are no effective treatments.
However, the Arthritis Foundation urges people to get help if they need it.
"Americans must take their joint health seriously and see a health professional at the earliest warning signs of arthritis," says John H. Klippel, MD, medical director of the Arthritis Foundation, in a news release.
People can take an active role in keeping their joints healthy. That may mean seeing a doctor about their joint pain. It could mean losing weight. It may mean getting physically active.
"Taking action can help people with chronic joint symptoms avoid joint damage and disability, enabling them to live active lives with fewer limitations," he adds.