It's doubtful that you could ever go wrong by asking a doctor about new symptoms you have been experiencing. However, people have a tendency to wait to see if the symptoms disappear on their own or they take a stab at self-treatment (such as heat or over-the-counter medications) before scheduling a doctor appointment.
Ordinary Pain or Arthritis Pain?
Early symptoms of osteoarthritis can resemble ordinary aches and pains which nearly everyone experiences at some point. How can you tell if it's something more concerning than ordinary aches and pains caused by a period of over-activity? When you've reached the point of wondering what more it could be, it's time to ask a doctor.
When You Should Ask a Doctor
Here are some basic guidelines which suggest when you should consult your doctor. If you suspect osteoarthritis or some form of arthritis or have:
- Pain which persists for 7 days or more in a joint that was previously without symptoms
- Recent injury which has resulted in severe joint pain
- Fever which accompanies a hot, swollen joint or rash
- Unusual muscle weakness
- Morning stiffness in joints which lasts for 30 minutes to one hour
Osteoarthritis symptoms can include:
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Joint tenderness
- Limited range-of-motion
- Crepitus (crackling, grinding noise with movement)
- Joint effusion (swelling)
- Local inflammation
- Bony enlargements and osteophyte formation
The Goal is Early Diagnosis and Early Treatment
If you have any of these symptoms which persist, consult your doctor. Early diagnosis and early treatment are essential for managing symptoms and slowing joint damage. With treatment, you should begin to feel better and function more normally.