If you are experiencing joint pain, it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. You can start by visiting your general practitioner or family doctor who may refer you to one or more specialists in joint problems. Medical professionals who diagnose and treat joint damage include:
If your doctor suspects an arthritic condition, s/he will examine the affected joint and ask you questions about joint pain. Be prepared to answer questions about symptoms, including details about your usual activities, especially sports. The doctor will also want to know about other health conditions that lead to joint pain. The doctor will also ask about any other medical problems you or and close family members have experienced. It might also help to list all medications, vitamins or supplements that you are currently taking? Some questions your doctor might ask about joint problems include:
After a complete medical history, doctors examine specific joints for problems, checking the bones, ligaments, and tendons for signs of injury. The doctor will probably bend, twist, and turn a joint to look for any signs of instability. You may be asked to get off the exam table and walk, bend over, or squat.
No single test can diagnose joint damage or the presence of arthritis. In fact, most doctors use a combination of methods to diagnose the disease and rule out other conditions. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for joint problems may include the following:
Laboratory tests - Blood, urine and fluid tests can help distinguish one form of arthritis from other forms of arthritis and causes of joint pain and stiffness, and can help monitor the side effects of various treatments. Tests that may be ordered to rule out other conditions and to evaluate health include:
- antibody tests for medical conditions such as SLE, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
- c-reactive protein test (CRP)
- complete blood count (CBC)
- comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)
- cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody (CCP)
- erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate or ESR)
- rheumatoid factor (RF)
- synovial fluid analysis
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - This imaging test provides a picture of internal body tissues using a strong magnet. Doctors often use MRI tests if pain is present, if x-ray findings are inconclusive or damage to other joint tissues is possible.
Physical examination - A physical exam is used to determine range-of-motion, location of pain, and level of joint instability/stability. Your doctor may also check reflexes and general health, including muscle strength during a physical.
X rays - Doctors take x rays identify the severity of joint. X rays show cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs.
Doctors attempt to rule out other disorders and identifying conditions during diagnosis before creating a treatment plan. It usually is not difficult to diagnose arthritis or joint damage. However, it is more difficult connect degenerative joint disease to symptoms. This is because symptoms seemingly caused by the disease actually may be due to other medical conditions. But how can doctors treat joint damage? Continue reading the next section on joint pain relief for more information.
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