Many people consider joint pain to be an inevitable part of aging. But joint problems such as arthritis can strike at any age, and you can find relief with the right treatment.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 23 percent of Americans had a diagnosable joint disorder. Though most of these can be classified as arthritis, that category is broad. There are over 100 different varieties of arthritis. Still, a large percentage of those cases fall into two main categories — and if you experience joint pain, yours could too.

Osteoarthritis

Also called degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It affects approximately 27 million Americans of all ages, though it is especially common among women and people over 65.

OA occurs when the cartilage at the end of each bone begins to break down. Without this cushion between bones, you may experience pain, swelling and trouble moving. More advanced cases may cause damage to bones.

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While OA is quite common, it can also be treated through a variety of therapies. Because joint injury or overuse is a major cause of OA, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and muscle strengthening exercises. Canes or other supportive devices might also be useful. Additionally, prescription medication or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are often used to lessen discomfort.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease affecting about 1.5 million Americans. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the soft tissue surrounding the joints. As this tissue is damaged, it starts to thicken, causing joint pain and swelling. Over time, this can cause permanent joint damage or deformity, which is why early treatment is so important.

RA usually begins in the smallest joints, such as the fingers and toes. It then spreads to larger joints like the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. Joint pain or stiffness is usually the same on both sides of the body (e.g., both hands, or both knees).

More women than men contract RA, and they also tend to do so earlier in life. The most common symptoms are swollen joints and stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Fatigue, fever and unintended weight loss may also occur.

If you are diagnosed with RA, your doctor may prescribe medication to slow tissue damage and prevent joint deformity. Strategies such as physical therapy and regular physical activity may also be beneficial.

Joint pain has many causes, but relief could be closer than you think. The expert physicians at USC Orthopaedic Surgery can diagnose your joint pain and provide the latest treatments for arthritis and other related conditions. Call (800) USC-CARE or request an appointment to get the most appropriate care for your needs.