Depending on the joint affected, people with osteoarthritis may experience specific symptoms in the joints such as:
Activities of daily living, such as climbing stairs or opening jars, often become more difficult as the joints become more affected by the disorder.
Osteoarthritis typically occurs in one or two joints at first, most frequently targeting weight-bearing joints that include:
- Small hand joints may also be involved.
The pain of osteoarthritis often manifests as a deep ache within or near the affected joint, coupled with a limitation of motion. In OA, most people typically experience joint pain that worsens during the course of the day, whereas others report the greatest pain in the morning (which is related to the symptom of stiffness after activity)
Osteoarthritic pain primarily is caused by joint damage.
- Joint pain results when bony overgrowths rub together or when small stress fractures are present.
- In addition, secondary injuries may occur if pain limits a joint's normal range of motion.
- The body may respond by protectively "favoring" one joint over another. For example, if the painful joint is a knee or an ankle, the "favored" joint may be overused, causing painful muscle strain.
Other painful sensations, such as rubbing or grating within the joint, may be felt when a person performs specific activities such as:
- Stair climbing
Nice To Know:
Pain does not come from the cartilage (which contains no nerves), but from the adjacent stretched or irritated tissues.
Sometimes osteoarthritis can cause referred pain - that is, pain that is not experienced directly in the damaged joint, but is felt in other regions instead. For example:
- An arthritic hip joint may cause painful sensations in the buttocks, groin, thigh, or knee.
- Arthritis of the spine can cause pain that radiates to the neck, arms, or legs.
Osteoarthritic pain, like other pain, may worsen after stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one or separation from a spouse.
After periods of inactivity (for example, sleeping or prolonged sitting), a person may experience considerable stiffness in the osteoarthritic joint. Stiffness usually lasts for about 30 minutes or less and is improved by mild activity that 'warms up' the joint.
Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, is distinguished by joint stiffness that is most pronounced in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
Progressive breakdown of cartilage may lead to the formation of enlarged bony growths or "
Osteoarthritis usually doesn't cause any prominent inflammation (a protective response in which tissue may become red, warm, and tender) in response to injury. This distinguishes it from rheumatoid arthritis, which is associated with considerable joint inflammation. Occasionally people with osteoarthritis experience mild inflammation, although the exact cause of this response remains unknown.