What Does Osteoarthritis Feel Like?
Understanding and Managing Your Pain
With over 100 different variations of the greater arthritis diagnosis, osteoarthritis is easily the most common. The condition primarily affects men and women over 50 years of age, and since it’s known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, you often can’t plan for it or even prevent it. Since there is no known cure for the disease, it’s important that you understand how osteoarthritis feels so you can manage your pain.
It can be easy to ignore the early signs of osteoarthritis. You might think you’re working too hard, working out too much, not exercising enough, or just getting older. While any of those things could be true, there are three specific hurts, pains, and inconveniences you should watch for if you suspect you might be developing osteoarthritis.
- Joint Stiffness
- Joint Swelling
- Joint Noise
Let’s examine each of these individually.
#1 Joint Stiffness
These aren’t the aches and pains you might experience when you first wake up in the morning. Those occur normally at nearly any age. We’re talking about sustained joint stiffness that lasts for at least 30 minutes or more, deep into your morning.
It’s also the sort of pain that lasts throughout the day in various ways:
- Your posture and gait are changed
- Your joints hurt after they’re used
- You simply can’t move as easily as you used to
With symptoms of this nature, many people decide to rest or sleep more in hopes of reducing the pain. We actually recommend light, regular exercise that keeps your joints moving is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis at any stage.
#2 Joint Swelling
This symptom is much harder to ignore definitely a sign that your osteoarthritis is growing in intensity. You can handwave away joint pain with the excuse of “I’m just getting older.” But when the joints of your knees, fingers, or ankles become noticeably larger while also becoming more painful to move, you need to take action.
Joint swelling is often caused by buildup of fluid called effusion, and it simply hurts. It exacerbates everything you felt when your joints were simply stiff and inflexible. Furthermore, that pain can then be compounded with tenderness wherein your joints seem to hurt inside and outside your body.
#3 Joint Noise
The medical term is “crepitus,” but you’ll recognize it as joints that audibly pop and creak when you make any sort of movement. Not only does joint noise sound painful in your ears, but it feels painful. In a technical sense, what’s happening is that the cartilage that should exist between your joints to protect them from rubbing together has disappeared. Your bones are now hitting each other when you move.
Understanding Osteoarthritis Pain
Those three collections of pain symptoms manifest themselves differently across your body.
- Hips: The pain slowly spreads to your groin, buttocks, and thighs.
- Knees: A distinct “grinding,” “grating,” or “scraping” feeling happens whenever you move your knee.
- Fingers: You develop tiny bone spurs on your joints, causing swelling and pain, especially at the base of your thumb.
- Feet: Your big toe begins to experience pronounced pain and tenderness, complete with swollen ankles or toes.
It’s important to address your osteoarthritis pain directly and promptly, as you don’t want it to change your gait or posture because walking normally hurting too much. If you feel you might be developing osteoarthritis, we encourage you to speak with your primary care physician for a more thorough examination.