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Osteoarthritis Signs & Symptoms

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a localized disease in which is connected to the natural process of aging. Symptoms are generally limited to the affected joint(s), and any joint can be affected by OA. The cartilage surrounding an arthritic bone progressively wears down until bones rub against each other. Spurs develop on the exposed bones and malformation of the joints often occurs. This process is generally painful and causes an inflammatory response.

The most common osteoarthritis symptom experienced in any joint is pain. Aching joints characterize the disease. This pain becomes exacerbated when it is stressed or in motion and it feels relief while immobile. As the disease worsens, patients may experience joint pain while the affected joint is at rest. For many OA patients, stiffness often follows periods of rest. Stiffness lasts a while during stillness and is eased by working out and stretching.

(If you live in Alabama and have been diagnosed with OA, you may qualify for our osteoarthritis clinical trial in Birmingham, AL.)

Arthritic pain can be so severe that it keeps patients awake at night. The pain is often exacerbated in humidity and before rain. Joint relief and mobility may follow even intense throbbing pain.

Other symptoms include:

-Joint tenderness
-Bone spurs
-Loss of full range of motion of joints
-Inflammation
-Morning stiffness
-Muscle spasms
-Joint effusion (swelling)
-Crepitus (cracking noise) upon movement of an arthritic knee
-Tendon contractions
-Unstable joints
-Joint locking
-Joint buckling
-Poor posture
-Worsened coordination
-Deteriorating manual dexterity

Fatigue and general weakness are often mistakenly thought of as symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Cases of OA are characterized uniquely different in each joint. With each case, pain is experienced if any symptoms at all are present.

Hip:

-OA may impact one or both hips simultaneously
-Pain may be experienced in the groin, buttocks and knees in addition to the hips
-Limping
-Commonly experienced loss of range of motion
-Very often experienced (because hips bear so much weight)

Knee:

-Often debilitating
-Affected knees often maintain range of motion and function
-Swelling
-Very often experienced (because knees bear so much weight)

Finger:

-OA usually develops in the Heberden’s nodes (first joint below fingertips)
-Often damages the base of the thumb
-Cysts commonly develop in the affected fingers

Spine:

-Muscle spasms
-Loss of mobility
-Pinched nerves
-Numbness
-May cause pain in the lower back
-May cause pain in the neck and result in trouble with swallowing
-Muscle weakness

Shoulder:

-Less commonly experienced
-Commonly stems from a previous shoulder injury
-May cause stiffness in the back of the shoulder

Symptoms of OA tend to progress slowly over decades. Many OA patients, most of them under the age of forty, do not experience any symptoms of their disease. If the pain last for a few weeks, or if the aching becomes so harsh that a person cannot move the affected joint or bone, a doctor should be contacted right away. If you think you may have osteoarthritis, call your healthcare professional and discuss your symptoms and medical history so that your doctor can help you to live a better quality life.