Osteoarthritis symptoms – Different stages of the disease

Osteoarthritis is a widespread joint disease that primarily affects the cartilage in the joint. This results in stiff and painful joints. However, many people mistake osteoarthritis symptoms for normal aging, and do not seek help for their discomfort. It is not uncommon for an individual to wait to seek help until their everyday life has been significantly affected. For this reason, it is good to be aware of the most common signs of the disease. Early diagnosis and treatment provide a better chance of improvement.

The first symptoms of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes a breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. The cartilage is the tissue that allows the bones in the joint to slide against each other. When the cartilage breaks down, it becomes more difficult to use the affected joint. The earliest sign is primarily stiffness in and around the joint. For example, it can take a while to regain mobility after sitting still or resting. However, it is above all the pain that gets the person affected to seek out treatment.

The pain and discomfort that arises with osteoarthritis is usually experienced as being limiting. It becomes more difficult to continue to be active since straining the joints is painful. Sitting still makes the disease worse and you become even more stiff. A vicious cycle is created.

Since articular cartilage exists throughout the body, the problem can appear at one or more sites simultaneously. Knees and hips are the most common problem areas. Osteoarthritis, however, also occurs in less known areas, such as fingers, shoulders, spine and the job.

Read more about the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

How osteoarthritis progresses if untreated

With more pronounced osteoarthritis, pain at rest can also occur. This means that the joints are painful even when the affected person is resting or sleeping. In this case, the symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as instability and more intense pain, can also occur. Instability is felt primarily with osteoarthritis in the knees.

Swollen joints are also a symptom that some people develop. This is usually completely harmless.

The swelling is the result of increased production of synovial fluid, which tries to lubricate the joint affected by osteoarthritis. The swelling can go down quickly by gently rubbing the affected joint. However, avoid heavy pressure on the joint.

It is important to remember that the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be felt differently depending on which joint is affected. At the same time, the pain can appear in episodes, with no apparent reason, so-called “attacks”. In general, however, the intensity of symptoms increases over time if the correct type of treatment is not undertaken.

How are the symptoms of osteoarthritis relieved?

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured. However, it can be treated with good results by using physical activity and customized exercises. The affected person should seek out the help of a physiotherapist to strengthen their muscles and joints. This can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis over the long term. (It is important to continue performing the exercises even if the symptoms disappear, in order to prevent them from coming back.) If needed, the pain can be reduced using pain-relieving medications with a prescription from your physician.

More information about the different ways that osteoarthritis develops.