A twinge in your shoulder or your knee on its own may be nothing to worry about — a little ice, some over-the-counter painkillers, careful stretching, and you’ll probably be fine.

If the pain keeps coming back, or if the joint stays swollen or hot to touch, time to see your doctor, as it could be something more serious.

What to do if you’re diagnosed with arthritis

Ask a lot of questions, and take notes — people often forget what they want to ask until after they’ve left the doctor’s office. You want to get as much information about your condition as you can. Get very clear about the type of arthritis you’ve been diagnosed with, which joints are affected, and how advanced it is.

If your diagnosis is osteoarthritis (the breakdown of cartilage in your joints), talk to your health care professional about lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition. If the damage is advanced enough, you may need to speak with an orthopedic surgeon about joint replacement.

If your diagnosis is an inflammatory form, such as rheumatoid arthritis, get a referral to a rheumatologist as soon as possible — there are treatments and interventions available that can have an enormous impact on your outcome if the disease is caught early.

Tips for managing your symptoms

For mild to moderate arthritis, the following tips may help you manage your symptoms.

1. Stay active

Physical activity delivers oxygen to the joints and helps keep them healthy longer. It also releases endorphins that can help relieve mental stress. Choose low-impact activities that feel good and protect your joints.

2. Maintain a healthy body weight

Extra weight puts strain on joints and can accelerate joint degeneration, as well as increase the chance of injuries that lead to osteoarthritis.

3. Get some rest 

Establish regular sleep routines to help overcome fatigue and allow your body time to recover.

4. Use common sense

There are alternative therapies out there that promise varying degrees of relief, so do your homework. And trust your gut: if something sounds too good to be true,  it probably is.

5. Talk to your doctor

Consult your physician before making any planned adjustment to your lifestyle, including changes to exercise, diet, or medication.