You live with it day in and day out. It can range from mild to excruciating. It can remain constant or come and go.
But one thing never changes: Chronic joint pain limits your activities and compromises your quality of life.

 

Here are five things you may not know about chronic joint pain:

Millions suffer.

Though it is common, a variety of illnesses and injuries can cause chronic joint pain: sports injuries, overuse, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, bursitis, gout, bone cancer and even depression. Osteoarthritis, brought on by age, joint injuries, genetics or being overweight, is the most common cause of chronic joint pain, affecting more than 30 million U.S. adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pain it causes costs an estimated $81 billion per year in lost wages. Treatments can vary. You should talk to a doctor to determine what might be causing the pain.

Life becomes unbearable.

Chronic joint pain develops over time and can become so intense that lying in bed doesn’t even bring relief. It hurts to walk, climb stairs, kneel or stoop. Chronic pain can cause the brain to misinterpret sensations from affected areas. You constantly anticipate pain, which causes stress and anxiety. Increased stress, along with disturbed sleep, social isolation and depression can make you vulnerable to mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many times, my patients’ spouses will tell me that when treatments have reduced pain, their loved ones become much more loveable.
— Terry Clyburn, MD, Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist

Injuries and damage quickly add up.

Younger individuals with numerous injuries and damage during their short lifetimes can suffer chronic joint pain. Sports injuries are among the most frequent chronic pain causes for people in their 20s. In addition, injuries sustained 20 to 30 years ago often lead to post-traumatic arthritis. Aging athletes don’t want to lose their athleticism, and treatments exist that allow them to remain active.

Pain becomes more likely with age.

One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis during his or her lifetime, while one in four adults will development symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by age 85, according to the Arthritis Foundation. “Nationwide, it’s estimated that more than 1 million joints are replaced annually,” Clyburn said. “At Houston Methodist, our specialists perform more than 4,000 joint replacements per year.”

Joints become noisy.

Besides swelling and stiffness, symptoms also might include clicking, cracking, creaking or locking when a joint bends — or feeling a grating sensation. “As the joint becomes more severely arthritic, the noise may increase,” Clyburn said. “The noise is not always painful, but if it is and if it keeps you from enjoying your life, consult a doctor.”