Most of us experience joint or muscle pain at some point in our lifetime. Though most of the joint symptoms resolve by itself, some may persist. If your pain is not resolving in 1-2 weeks it is better to take an expert opinion. If joint symptoms are associated with any of other symptoms like more stiffness in morning, joint swelling, fever, weight loss, skin rash etc then it important for a patient to see a rheumatologist as early as possible.
Earlier referral should be made if you have relatives with autoimmune or rheumatic disease (as these conditions can run in families) or if the symptoms are significantly worsening over a short period of time. Joint damage can occur if the symptoms of joint pain are ignored or not treated properly over a period of time. This damage cannot always be reversed with treatment and may be permanent. Do not delay appropriate evaluation.
Rheumatic diseases are occasionally complex in nature and difficult to diagnose, so rheumatologists will gather a complete medical history and perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of inflammation throughout the entire body and musculoskeletal system.
A rheumatologist may order additional laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. All of these results will be combined to determine the appropriate diagnosis and develop a personalized treatment plan for a particular patient.