My Achy Breaky Body: Orthopedic symptoms you can’t ignore

Does your body sound like a bowl of breakfast cereal—you know, snap, crackle, pop? Many of those joint sounds are actually normal. But, if you’re singing the achy-breaky blues, it’s time to stop ignoring your symptoms and make an appointment to see your doctor.

Musculoskeletal problems, such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, and chronic joint pain, affect more than one out of two adults in the U.S., especially those 65 and older.

Musculoskeletal disorders affect your bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or nerves. They can come on suddenly, or persist over time, be local to a specific joint or muscle or be widespread throughout your body. Often, the pain worsens with movement. Musculoskeletal problems interfere in activities of daily living, cause people to miss work, and are a source of significant pain. The top three areas affected are the knees, back, and shoulders.

We’ve all experienced bouts of sore, achy muscles and joints following rigorous activity or a minor injury. However, if you have persistent or severe musculoskeletal symptoms, don’t ignore them. Sometimes, what appears to be a musculoskeletal symptom can be due to an unrelated problem that requires immediate medical attention. For example, arm pain is a symptom of a heart attack and back pain could indicate kidney stones. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) produces joint and muscle symptoms, especially in the knuckles and middle joints of the fingers.

You don’t have to live with chronic muscle or joint pain. It’s not a normal sign of aging and today, doctors can offer many effective treatments. Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and losing weight, physical therapy, and medication can relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. When these treatments are not enough, your doctor may recommend surgery. Joint replacement surgeries are now one of the most widely performed operations in the U.S.

Musculoskeletal symptoms you should not ignore

  • Pain in the muscles, joints, ligaments, or tendons (can be deep, penetrating, or dull)
  • Swelling, warmth, or redness in a joint
  • Recurring or constant pain or tenderness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Difficulty using or moving a joint, especially after movement or activity
  • Crunchy feeling or sound of bone on bone
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Twitching muscles
  • Numbness, pain, or tingling that radiates into the arms or legs

Action Items:

If you have one or more of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your primary care physician. If you’ve been in an accident or experienced sudden trauma, you should seek emergency medical treatment.
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