Joint pain: what can I do to make it better?
August 25, 2007 6:04 AM   Subscribe

What is this joint pain, and what can I do to alleviate it?

I'm a 30 year old man in generally good health except that I deal with joint pain and stiffness across my body on a daily basis. It's worst in my fingers, wrists, and shoulders, but also bothersome in my knees, and one toe in particular. I have had some joint pain since my early 20's, and it has become progressively worse over time. I also get a lot of "snap, crackle, and pop" in my shoulders and finger joints. I'm concerned that I'm going to be a cripple by the time I'm 40 if this deterioration continues unabated.

I saw my doctor recently for a physical, and he basically said "you're not too young to get arthritis, take some advil or motrin when it's bad." I was hoping for a more robust plan of attack, but that's what I got from him.

A little additional background about my health: not overweight, low BP, physically active, and I drink between 20 - 30 drinks per. week.

My question is twofold:
1. Is this arthritis, or could it be something else?
2. What can I try to help reduce my daily aches and pains?
posted by man on the run to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i'm not a doctor, but you're not too young for arthitis-- a friend of mine was diagnosed before age 30. see a rheumatologist or at least an orthopedic/sports medicine doc.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:15 AM on August 25, 2007

Do you exercise? If so, look at your mechanics. If not, start. I'm kinda stiff in the joints when I don't exercise, and a little sore in the muscles when I do. I prefer the latter.
posted by notsnot at 6:23 AM on August 25, 2007

Best answer: Seconding see a rheumatologist. If it's rheumatoid arthritis, which can strike at any age, then you need medicine to treat it before it causes permanent damage. If you're especially stiff in the morning, or after sitting for a long time, that is a symptom of R.A.

If it's osteoarthritis, then advil may be enough, but you should also get more information about stretching exercises that you can do to relieve the pain.

And as for the big toe, people do still get gout. My husband has had a few flares lately and it's very painful.
posted by saffry at 6:24 AM on August 25, 2007

I drink between 20 - 30 drinks per. week.

Furthering the gout possibility - if you are drinking beer for those twenty to thirty drinks that could be a significant contributer to your problem.
posted by srboisvert at 7:01 AM on August 25, 2007

Response by poster: Saffry and srboisvert,

I've read up on gout based on some previous MeFi posts about joint pain, and I don't think that my symptoms are a great fit with all the symptoms of gout (the toe that hurts was broken about five years ago). I drink some beer, but it's a pretty "healthy" mix of beer, wine, scotch, bourbon, etc.

Thanks for your responses.
posted by man on the run at 7:19 AM on August 25, 2007

Best answer: Where did the pain start? If it's the toe that hurt first, then I'd still say you probably have gout. I had my first attack at age 30, and you have exactly my stats: not fat, BP 100/50, plenty of exercise, drink a lot. In fact, that's still my profile at 41, and I just had my third attack this summer.

Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood, which collects and crystallizes in the fluid of the body's cooler joints. Uric acid is the result of the metabolization of purines, which your body generates from the DNA of dead cells and takes in from certain foods. Since it's the serum concentration that matters, dehydration can also lead to an attack.

Treatment for the acute ongoing attack is either a heavy dose of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory: take 4 ibuprofen 4 times a day or get a prescription for indomethacin; or a course of colchicine, which is no fun since you take one pill an hour till you have vicious diarrhea - colchicine is poisonous and your body wants it out fast.

Preventative treatment is .6 mg daily colchicine or enough allopurinol to get your serum uric acid level below 50 mg/L, and dietary changes to include less purine from foods like turkey, scallops, mussels, trout, bacon, and veal.
posted by nicwolff at 7:25 AM on August 25, 2007

Simply stretch every day. Listen to some music or audio books or watch TV and stretch everything that hurts. You can do this after your exercise when the muscles and joints are warmed up, it will work better. For how long? The longer the better, obviously, there's no upper or lower limit. I can't imagine anything else that would help.
posted by rainy at 7:32 AM on August 25, 2007

Response by poster: On second thought (after reading srboisvert's link), perhaps there is some merit to considering gout. I hadn't realized how few beers one had to drink in order for it to increase chances of gout.
posted by man on the run at 7:36 AM on August 25, 2007

I do not want to be the voice of woe, but there is a joint disorder called avascular necrosis (or osteonecrosis,) which in young adults can be brought on by frequent use of alcohol. (By frequent, one of the resources that I read said "a few drinks, every day, for a few years." Yeah.) Steroids and joint trauma can also cause it. And sometimes, there's just no known reason.

So, I'd highly recommend getting your painful joints x-rayed. And maybe even push for an MRI, just to be sure. Here's the Wikipedia entry.

I really hope this isn't what's going on with you. And I wish I didn't know any of this from personal experience. But I felt so strongly that this information should get out there, that I finally signed up for Metafilter so I could tell you. Good luck.
posted by at 10:04 AM on August 25, 2007

I would seek a second opinion. If it is gout then it can do permanent damage if you leave it untreated. Get a second opinion to cover your bases.
posted by GlowWyrm at 7:50 PM on August 25, 2007

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