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"Is my joint and muscle pain normal, or should I see a doctor?"
I'm in my 20s, and in addition to upper back and neck pain I've increasingly felt pain in my shoulders, fingers, hips, and knees. These joints will make a sort of clicking noise when I move them, but feel better after I "crack" them. I also have a sharp pain halfway down my back on either side of my spine Exercise, seeing a chiropractor, and stretching are helpful in the short run, but don't seem to make a difference by the time I wake up the next morning. Since it's a combination of joint and muscle pain, I've always assumed it comes from sitting too much or an insufficiently firm mattress, rather than a medical cause. However, as I've changed my habits I have neither made progress nor heard anything promising from my chiropractor. I would appreciate it if you could discuss any types of pain that might indicate something more serious, as well as any things I can do on my own to either reduce the pain or rule out possible problems. Thanks in advance.
The fact that you have such diffuse musculoskeletal pain, that is persistent and unrelenting, does signal to me that you need to see your doctor. Especially given the fact that you've tried various lifestyle changes without much improvement or progress. I suggest starting by seeing your primary care doctor. The first thing they will want to do is examine your joints and muscles to see if there is any overt evidence of inflammation or swelling. They will probably couple this to some basic blood work, looking for evidence of inflammation there as well. If these tests are positive, they could indicate some systemic rheumatologic or inflammatory/connective tissue problem, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Even if these tests are negative, there are still other conditions to consider. For example, fibromyalgia is another common disorder in people your age, and it can present with this type of chronic, diffuse musculoskeletal pain. Based on what your tests and exam show, your doctor will help you decide what to do. If there is evidence of a rheumatologic condition, they will want to refer you to see a rheumatologist. If there is evidence of fibromyalgia, that is a condition that they will probably feel comfortable treating themselves.
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