Is joint pain just a sign of aging?

Dr. Daniel Aschenbrener, DO, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Banner Gateway Medical Center.

Question: I’ve been having pain in my joints. How do I know when it is something more serious than just the aches and pains that come with aging?

Answer: Most people assume that with age comes discomfort, but aging itself does not necessarily cause joint pain. When everyday tasks, such as bathing, walking or even opening a jar become difficult or painful, you should seek medical attention. You do not need to accept a lesser quality of life simply because you have grown older.

Numerous surgical and non-surgical treatments are available which can allow you to live life more comfortably, but it’s important to first get a diagnosis from a medical professional. Because most people cannot tell the difference between pain from an inflamed joint or a torn tendon, your doctor will need to evaluate your symptoms and your health history to determine the source of the problem and plan a course of treatment.

People with joint pain are frequently diagnosed with osteoarthritis - commonly known as arthritis - which is chronic inflammation of the joints. Your doctor may suggest certain supplements that can reduce pain and swelling, or prescribe physical therapy or specific exercises to lessen pressure on the joints. Prescription medications and surgery may also be options, but initially, less aggressive approaches often bring relief.

In addition to arthritis, other conditions can cause chronic pain, including tendinitis, nerve compression, cartilage or tendon tears, obesity and general deconditioning.  Today’s medical advancements offer proven treatment options that help manage your pain so you can participate in the activities you enjoy.  The most important step you can take is to share your symptoms with your doctor, and recognize that pain is not an automatic result of getting older.

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