Osteoarthritis Symptoms

When you met elderly people as a child, you probably noticed that they had difficulty getting up from a chair. They may have rubbed their knees or massaged their hands while they were talking. Certainly, you saw elderly folks walking with canes, gingerly stepping down from curbs, and moving very slowly. They may also have had difficulty getting into and out of automobiles.

Swollen joints and aching backs are among the most visible indicators that someone is suffering from arthritis. In fact, a burning or aching sensation in the fingers has been, for some people, among the early symptoms of arthritis that would soon affect many other joints. However, joint pain and swollen joints by themselves aren’t enough to warrant an arthritis diagnosis. Other diseases and conditions present in the same way.

Sore Joints and Other Symptoms

The early symptoms of arthritis tend to be mild – so mild, in fact, that they’re easy to miss. You might associate swollen joints with arthritis, but what about being stiff in the morning? Everyone over age 45 has stiff muscles and creaking joints in the morning, right?

Well, some do. From time to time everyone experiences joint pain, stiffness and other early symptoms of arthritis. While occasional twinges and stiffness probably aren’t anything to worry about, if any of the following conditions persist for two weeks or more, talk with your doctor. The more frequently these symptoms occur, the more likely it is that osteoarthritis may be developing:

  • sore joints (either while using the joints or, in advanced arthritis, at rest)
  • changes in joint shape (due to the formation of bone spurs)
  • inflammation (a symptom of advanced osteoarthritis)
  • loss of joint mobility
  • joint stiffness in the morning that lasts up to thirty minutes
  • cracking or grinding noises in the joint.

Early Osteoarthritis Diagnosis is Key

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that, in its early stages, can be very hard to detect. Some arthritis sufferers aren’t even aware that they have the disease, or only become aware of the problem after their symptoms become quite severe.

Early diagnosis can help slow its progression, so ignoring sore joints, inflammation and other warning signs is not recommended. Some people delay seeking out treatment because they believe chronic aches and pains are simply signals that they’re “getting old,” and that nothing can be done. However, a wide range of treatments does exist once a diagnosis is made.

Diagnosing Arthritis

The process of diagnosing arthritis starts with your doctor taking a detailed history of your symptoms. Expect to answer questions based on the list of arthritis symptoms given above. The sore joints will be physically examined: This involves checking the joints for range of mobility, inflammation and changes in shape.

After the physical exam, the affected joints will probably be x-rayed. Joints narrow as cartilage is lost, and this will show up on an x-ray. The x-ray will also reveal developing bone spurs (a type of abnormal bone growth called osteophytes), pseudocysts in the nearby bone marrow, or unusual bone density.


National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (updated 2004). Arthritis: The nation’s leading cause of disability.

MedicineNet, William C. Shiel Jr. (2004). Osteoarthritis (segenerative arthritis). MedicineNet.com.

The Glucosamine and Osteoarthritis Resource Center. (nd). The symptoms of osteoarthritis. glucosamine-osteoarthritis.org.