Your situation sounds remarkably similar to mine. I have an official dx of RA, but my rheumatologist doesn't think I actually have that. But he does feel I have something rheumatoid going on, possibly early lupus/mctd. I also have the same problems with my hips. I've been a bit confused lately, though. I do have the morning pain and stiffness that goes along with any kind of inflammatory arthritis, but my hips and shoulders tend to get worse with walking or even standing for extended periods of time. One thing my rheumatologist (who is, by the way, the right type of doctor to work with lupus) is looking into is mild myositis, which goes along with lupus/mctd. With myositis, your larger joints are affected (usually the ones closer to your trunk as your hips and shoulders and neck), and they will get a lot more stiff and painful upon walking and standing for long periods of time.
I'm not sure about the hip cracking, but my knees will crack every once in a while. My rheumatologist told me that's a very nonspecific and vague symptom, and might not mean anything at all? Yet, when he examines my shoulders, my right shoulder will often pop and he seems a bit concerned about that. I say ask your rheumy about that. In any case I hope you get some relief and answers soon.
thanks for responding. From what you've described about your current situation, it sounds like you most definitely have a CTD of some kind. My rheumatologist originally tested me (3 years ago) for ANA, RF, and a host of other things. Not sure what ENA is, though, or if he tested me for it? At the time, I only test positive for RF--negative ANA. Because the ANA was negative, he did not test for any more specific antibodies, but said that it is possible (albeit rare) to test positive for specific antibodies (e.g., the ones for polymyositis) but have an overall negative ANA. As far as the specific antibodies for lupus, individuals with MCTD normally never test positive for those antibodies, but only test positive for the specific antibodies for MCTD (anti-rnp). It all gets so very confusing to me, but every single case is different. My mother had MCTD, and she started out with exactly the same symptoms as me--positive rf, symmetrical joint pain, raynaud's. I don't think she ever tested positive for lupus, and it was years before she developed the antibodies specific to mctd. She was left without a diagnoses for a very long time. This is such a grey diagnostic area, and really a bad space for a patient to be in. NOt having a specific dx, regardless of the lack of a cure, can really take its toll in the long run. I hope you find your answers soon as well.
I guess numbers are only numbers after all. I'm a researcher by trade, so I rely heavily on numbers, but when it comes to my own health, I'd rather a doctor treat me for symptoms despite what numbers come back from labs. Numbers do lie.