What is osteoarthritis
Symptoms & Restrictions
The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness of the joints, but other symptoms also occur. Symptoms vary per person and per joint, and can even vary from day to day.13 In the case of knee osteoarthritis (OA), over time, the other knee also becomes affected.14 Generally symptoms progress as the condition does.
Pain is one of the main symptoms of OA, and as your condition becomes more severe, you may feel pain more often.5 Continuous pain can have a severe effect on your daily life. During and after movement, affected joints can be painful. Generally the pain worsens as the day progresses. Additionally, OA joints can feel painful even at rest or at night, and may become warm, swollen or red. Patients experience pain differently and they should share how they are feeling with their doctor so an action plan can be determined.
Joints may become stiff, especially after a period of rest. As with pain, you can have good days and bad days and the degree of stiffness can vary. Stiffness limits mobility: after resting or sitting for a while it may be difficult to get up out of a chair or to climb stairs. But once joints are in movement, the stiffness may gradually diminish.5
Swelling can occur when a joint develops more synovial fluid or when hard bone growths (spurs) appear. Hand OA can regularly cause such bony spurs.
Grating or crackling joints
Sometimes joints affected by OA make a grating or crackling sound when in movement. This is caused by the damaged structure of bones and cartilage. In the case of knee OA, a grating sound can be heard when knees are bending.
Instable joints and weakened muscles
Affected, painful joints can be difficult to move and lack of exercise results in weakened muscles and instability. This increases the risk of falling and further injury. Knees can seem to buckle or give way when affected by OA. Exercises to help strengthen muscles can help prevent instability.
Fatigue can be a result of bad sleep, night after night, if the pain is too intense. Because movement is more painful, often less exercise is done. This is an example of how pain can limit patients in their daily life.
In a later stage of the disease, OA can result in posture deformation as bones change structure and shift into different positions. For instance knees can become bent inwards or outwards, fingers can become bent sideways; you may develop a lump at the thumb base or a bunion on the big toe.14
Learn more about OA treatment options.