We all experience joint pain from time-to-time. In fact, in some cases (especially during flu season), aches and pains are actually a sign that your immune system is properly functioning and warding off infection. However, when pain in your muscles, and joints persist for more than a few days, you should consider seeing a doctor – specifically, one specializes in rheumatology. Rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are often challenging to identify in their initial states, so it’s paramount to heed a few early warning signs that may indicate that your joint pain is more than more than routine.
Joint pain that can be linked to causative factor (I.E. strenuous exercise) is not cause for alarm, and in most cases, is simply a case of muscle stiffness. However, because arthritis progresses over time, if you experience a dull aching or burning pain that continually becomes worse, you should schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist to rule out (among other conditions) RA. Bear in mind that in most cases, even unexplainable joint pain has a less serious root cause.
Reduced Range of Motion
While taking longer to get out of bed and experiencing muscle stiffness after prolonged periods of sitting are often par for the course when it comes to aging, unusual range of motion changes should not go unchecked. If you find yourself regularly hampered when attempting to move your joints, and suffering pain that affects the way you sit or move, and prevents you from doing daily exercises, then it’s still to schedule a rheumatologist appointment.
Changes in Sleep/Eating Habits
Sleep disturbance is telltale sign of RA – and if your joint pain is inhibiting your ability to visit dreamland, you should err on the side of safety and call your rheumatology. Also, worth noting, for patients diagnosed with RA, some medications may affect your appetite, resulting in nausea that prevents you from eating. You may also experience weight gain when taking these medications.
Feelings of Anxiety and Depression
If your joint pain is severe enough, is can compromise your movement, and not being able to get around as well as you usually can lead to thoughts of depression and hopelessness, which is another sign that it’s time to see a rheumatologist. If you are diagnosed with RA, your physician can help you handle any symptoms of depression/anxiety that may accompany your treatments.
Gender, Weight and Family History
It’s noteworthy to mention that RA is more prevalent in women than men (60% of those diagnosed are female), with gout being the only type of rheumatic disease more commonly found in men. Moreover, people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for arthritis symptoms, so if you fit into that category and experience symptoms – make that call.
Furthermore, whether male or female, you may be genetically predisposed to certain genes are associated with a higher risk of some types of arthritis, like RA, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and akylosing spondylitis. If you have a family history of any form of arthritis, and experience ongoing joint pain, there’s rheumatologists available to help.