Osteoarthritis -- Symptoms
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

If you are experiencing stiffness, pain, or swelling in your joints that makes routine daily tasks difficult, you may have osteoarthritis. The joints that are most often affected by osteoarthritis include the knees, hips, back, neck, toes, and fingers. The disorder often develops in only one or two joints at first. See your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms that last for more than 2 weeks:


The pain from osteoarthritis can be deep and aching in or near the affected joint. The pain can come and go and increase or decrease in severity, depending on the time of day or type of activity you are engaged in. The pain may be worse after you overuse your joints, such as by exercising excessively, or after long periods of inactivity. Many people who have osteoarthritis have the most pain in the morning, after resting their joints all night. They usually need a little time to "loosen up" their stiff joints before they can move them comfortably.

If you have osteoarthritis, you may not feel the pain right at the affected joint, but in an area nearby. For instance, if your hip is damaged by arthritis, you may feel pain in your thigh, groin, buttocks, or knee. Pain from arthritis in your spine can radiate to your neck, arms, or legs. Your lower back may be stiff and your arms and legs may feel weak or even numb. If this weakness or numbness is severe or persistent, see your doctor immediately; you may have nerve damage. Nerve damage can often be treated at an early stage.

In your fingers, arthritis can make the joints red, swollen, tender, and aching and your fingertips numb or tingly. If you have arthritis in your knees, bending them can be painful; you may feel rubbing or grating inside your knees or pain when you walk up or down stairs.

Joints affected by osteoarthritis change as the disease progresses, mostly in response to breakdown of the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones. Total destruction of the cartilage can cause severe pain from the constant rubbing of bone against bone.


Swelling occurs in the joint when the tender lining of the joint (the synovial membrane) becomes irritated and produces fluid that collects inside the joint. As more cartilage wears away, growths may form on the ends of the bones. These bony growths can make the joint look knobby and swollen.

Crackling sounds

You may hear a crackling sound when you move your joint. In most cases, this crackling may be related to normal gases moving inside the joint. In severe cases, it may result from bone rubbing against bone.

Mild inflammation

Inflammation in a joint causes swelling, redness, warmth, and tenderness. Doctors don't know for sure what causes the inflammation.

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