What is the difference between chronic joint pain and arthritis?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines severe joint pain as a seven or higher on a pain scale of one to ten. Persistent or chronic joint pain is defined as having joint pain of any severity on most or all days over the previous three months.

People who are experiencing joint pain and whose condition qualifies as "chronic" often wonder whether they have arthritis, which is a serious disease with long-term consequences.

To determine whether the joint pain is actually arthritis, consider the following:

  • Did the joint recently suffer some trauma? Chronic joint pain that is not arthritis can often be triggered by some form of blunt force to the area. A fall, for example, may create chronic joint pain to the wrists, elbows, or knees. While arthritis can also be triggered by trauma, called, appropriately, post-traumatic arthritis, it is not one of the more typical sign of the onset of the disease.
  • Can you determine the cause of the joint pain? People who experience joint pain after a strenuous workout may be experiencing joint pain that is not arthritis. Typically, arthritis pain develops over time and is not a result of exercise. If you cannot determine the cause of your joint pain, that is, if it cannot be connected directly to a specific incident, you may have arthritis.
  • What is your personal story and family history? Sixty percent of all people diagnosed with arthritis are female. Gout, which also causes severe joint pain, is more common in men. If you are overweight or have a family history of arthritis, you are at a higher risk for the disease.
  • When does the pain occur? One symptom of osteoarthritis, one of the two most common forms of arthritis, is joint pain and stiffness just after rising in the morning. While chronic pain may also cause morning stiffness and pain, arthritis should not be ruled out.

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