ZocdocAnswersWhat causes chronic joint pain?

Question

What causes chronic joint pain?

What causes chronic joint pain OTHER than arthritis? I'm only 22, so I'm way to young to have arthritis. But my knees have started hurting almost all the time. I'm a runner, but I take it pretty easy, so I don't think it's a sports injury. What could this be?

Answer

Chronic joint pain is a common condition, although more common in the elderly. I would suggest seeing your primary doctor (or getting one if you don't have one) as there are some serious conditions that should be ruled out. Arthritis is a generalized term that refers to inflammation of the joints. When people generally say arthritis (as I think you are referring to) they are talking about osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, as you suggest, is more common in the elderly. This is essentially caused by wear and tear on the joint that results in the cartilage being worn down. This results on "bone on bone" that results in pain. The wear and tear happens over time, so it is more common in the elderly--but many things can accelerate this. Risk factors include extra weight (for example obese people often get knee osteoarthritis) and repetitive stress. If you are an avid runner--it is possible you have early onset osteoarthritis. Other possibilities are also important to consider. A common cause of joint pain is stress on the ligaments and muscles surrounding the joint, for example "runner's knee" or "dancer's hip". This is often the case in active young people--especially if there is bad shoe support or running form. See your doctor about this as physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles and overall improve the symptom. Pain medicines can also help reduce the inflammation. The other thing to consider is other forms of arthritis--namely rheumatoid arthritis. This can occur in multiple joints and occurs because of an autoimmune attack by the body's immune system on its own joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common, but other conditions like lupus can also cause this. It is more common in women. This can cause many other heart, lung and kidney complications so should be diagnosed early. Chronic joint pain is a common condition. Serious conditions need to be ruled out. See your primary doctor.

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