Do you have aching joints? The pain is considered normal after a hard-hitting workout or physical exertion. However, if your joint pain is persistent and starting to impede on your daily activities, you might need to see a doctor.
The Initial Consultation
When first meeting your doctor for the initial consultation, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:
The Physical Examination
A physical examination usually follows the initial consultation. You will be asked to help to identify the precise source of the pain. Perhaps what you perceive as hip pain might actually be originating from your back, something only a trained professional could help ascertain.
Once the general area of the discomfort is located, the medical processional will make an evaluation of the area. Signs of inflammation will be sought, such as swelling, warmth, stiffness, tenderness, enlargement or perhaps a notable deformity.
Simple tests might be performed such as a test to gauge how much motion you can sustain, perhaps a test of how far you can walk or how easily you can get in and out of your chair. A check of joint stability might also be performed. These tests are necessary to determine if it truly is a joint issue and not a muscle or soft tissue disorder, which would need different treatment and precautions.
Other Diagnostic Tests
If a physical examination is insufficient, you might need to have lab tests such as blood tests and urine tests. Blood tests to detect particular joint diseases include the rheumatoid factor test, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and the antinuclear antibodies test (ANA).
The rheumatoid factor test is to determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis; people with osteoarthritis do not usually have abnormal blood test results so the test can help determine what type of arthritis you have.
What are rheumatoid factors? They are a type of antibody that will be found in 70 to 90 per cent of those with rheumatoid arthritis. Yet they can still be detected in people without the condition, or who have other autoimmune disorders. You could still have rheumatoid arthritis without testing positive for rheumatoid factors – in this case, the disease will likely be less severe.
Anti-CCP is another test for rheumatoid arthritis, which is more specific to measure levels of antibodies that bind citrulline modified protein. Their presence can be used as an effective gauge to predict whether someone will get more severe rheumatoid arthritis.
ESR on the other hand will test the degree of inflammation in the body. Healthy people will have low ESR in general. However, ESR will correlate with disease activity, for instance in the case of those with chronic joint inflammatory disorders like lupus or polymyalgia rheumatica. High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) can also indicate high degrees of inflammation or detect possible injury in the body.
These blood tests are not the only tests that might be run. Depending on your condition or symptoms, various other tests might be carried out, including ones to test your uric acid levels, skin and muscle biopsies where samples of your skin and muscle will be tested as well as samples of your joint fluid.
Be aware, however that lab tests do have their limitations. They might show negative results even when the person tested has the disease being tested for, while some disease-positive markers might show up in a test despite the person not having the disease. Yet despite these limitations, lab tests are still essential to the diagnostic process and can still prove instrumental in formulating the proper care and treatment plan for a patient’s condition.
Besides blood tests there are also specific tests to allow your doctor to view joint damage. These are usually imaging tests that include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and arthroscopy. These tests, in tandem with lab tests, will help doctors properly diagnose your condition.
Resist the urge to self-diagnose or self-treat. Early treatment and intervention could help slow the progression of a disease or prevent it from getting worse. Do not delay in setting up an appointment; it could make a big difference in your quality of life and you never know – those symptoms could herald something more severe than just joint disease. Better to be safe and healthy than very, very sorry.