What conditions can cause chronic joint pain?

Contrary to popular perception, many of the millions of Americans suffering from chronic joint pain are not elderly and merely victims of aging bones and cartilage. Some chronic joint pain casualties are caused by trauma such as an accident, or from repetitive motion, often originating in the workplace.

Still, others develop joint pain through various diseases, some of which can be avoided, some of which cannot.

One avoidable condition is Lyme disease which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affects approximately 30,000 people each year. The CDC figure, however, is for reported cases and the actual case number is believed to be considerably higher. Two studies estimate the actual number is about 300,000.

Though Lyme disease cases are concentrated in the northeast and upper Midwest, the ticks that transmit it are found in grassy and heavily wooded areas throughout the U.S.

The early symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Rash - This usually appears anywhere from three to thirty days after the infected tick bite. The rash appears as a red area that slowly expands over several days. Some infected people may develop more than one rash.
  • Neurological issues - Long after the rash appears, some people with Lyme disease develop serious conditions such as meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain), temporary paralysis (aka Bell's palsy), numbness or weakness in the limbs, and/or impaired muscular movement.
  • Joint pain - According to the CDC, severe joint pain may develop days to months after a tick bite, most notably in the knees and other larger joints. This condition is so prevalent, that it has been designated "Lyme arthritis." This is often treated with Non-steroidal Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription anti-inflammatory medications, or prescription opioids.

The three medications used to treat Lyme disease have serious side effects, including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and kidney problems. Opioids carry the risk of addiction.

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