6 Signs It’s Time To Call Your Doctor For an Osteoarthritis Evaluation

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You want to stay active and avoid pain, right? Then don’t delay seeking treatment for joint problems like osteoarthritis. Your doctor can help you avoid permanent joint damage and other serious health issues.

So, what joint symptoms are a sign for you to call your doctor for an evaluation?

When To Call Your Doctor

You have good reason to make an appointment with your doctor if any of these joint symptoms last three days, or you experience several episodes of these symptoms within a month. Symptoms include:

  1. Pain, tenderness or stiffness in one or more joints. Particularly first thing in the morning or after rest
  2. Joint pain that is worse. Particularly in hips, knees and lower back — after activity or at day’s end
  3. Swollen joints. Especially after extended activity
  4. Limited range of joint motion or stiffness that goes away after movement.
  5. Difficulty moving a joint or doing common, daily activities.
  6. Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends.

Keep in mind that joint symptoms tend to come on gradually — not suddenly. But when the signs of osteoarthritis begin to limit your daily activities, it’s time to take action and call your doctor.

Symptoms Differ For Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have rheumatoid arthritis[link to Healthwise: Rheumatoid Arthritis], rather than osteoarthritis, your symptoms may differ, says orthopedic surgeon Michael Raab, MD.

Patients with osteoarthritis “complain their joints hurt the more they’re up and about,” he says.

“Conversely, with rheumatoid arthritis patients typically state that when they wake up in the morning their joints are sore.” And their pain is not just in one joint, but in symmetrical joints – that is, in joints on both sides of the body, such as both hands, feet, or ankles.

And rheumatoid arthritis pain usually subsides after you’ve been up and moving. “Symptoms are usually worse after a period of inactivity or the first thing in the morning.” 

Michael Raab, MD, explains differences in symptoms between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

The Benefits Of Involving Your Doctor

Based on your condition, you and your doctors can develop a joint treatment plan to minimize your symptoms, help you preserve joint function, and improve your quality of life by enabling you to stay as active as possible.

And staying active provides you at least two additional benefits:

  • Decreased risk for weight gain. Extra pounds raise your risk for serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Extra pounds also add stress on weight-bearing joints and contribute to arthritis. 
  • Decreased risk for falls. Physical activity strengthens your muscles and helps you maintain better balance. The Arthritis Foundation reports that people with osteoarthritis have as much as a 30 percent higher risk of falling and a 20 percent greater risk of fractures. Seeking treatment for osteoarthritis can help you stay on your feet.

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