Is This Pain Normal? Osteoarthritis Symptoms, and Treatment
Osteoarthritis affects more than one-third of adults over the age of 65. A significant fraction of younger adults also suffer from osteoarthritis symptoms.
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage begins to break down from age or heavy use. Cartilage normally covers the ends of bones and allows them to move freely against each other. The degeneration of cartilage exposes the bones of the joint and allows bone-on-bone contact. This can cause:pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, changes in joint appearance.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but the most commonly affected areas are: hands, hips, knees, neck, lower back.
Common Osteoarthritis Symptoms
For most people with osteoarthritis, stiffness is usually worse in the mornings. It is usually also worse after long periods of inactivity or rest. At these times, joints may feel: achy, rigid, hard to move.
Soreness and aching pain are common symptoms of osteoarthritis. Muscle pain can also occur in the surrounding tissue. Usually, pain, like stiffness, is most intense after sleep or a period of inactivity.
Some people with osteoarthritis feel more pain during movement of the joints and less pain when at rest. Over time, the pain may occur even when the joints are not used.
Joint tenderness, sensitivity of the joints to touch, can also occur in people with osteoarthritis.
Pain and tenderness can be caused by:
-bones rubbing against each other
-inflammation in the joints
-bone spurs (bony growths)
-pinched nerves caused by swelling and displacement of joint tissue
Swelling is more common in people with RA than osteoarthritis. However, people with osteoarthritis also experience swelling. Swelling is the body’s reaction to irritants, such as bone-on-bone contact. It contributes to the stiffness and pain experienced by patients with osteoarthritis.
Loss of Flexibility and Range of Motion
According to the CDC, about 80 percent of people with osteoarthritis have some problem with range of motion. A quarter need assistance with daily living activities.
Bone spurs are small bony projections. They can occur naturally, but they may also be a response to inflammation in a joint. Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, can sometime be felt as hard little lumps around joints affected by osteoarthritis. They are not painful in and of themselves. However, bone spurs can rub against nearby nerve and bone, causing additional pain.
People with osteoarthritis often have to exert extra physical effort in order to carry out the basic daily tasks of living. This can cause fatigue.
Inflammation is caused by chemical mediators called cytokines. These can also cause fatigue.
Many people with osteoarthritis hear sounds in their joints when they move. Their joints may make noises such as: creaking, snapping, crackling, grinding. These noises are often accompanied by discomfort or pain.
Fever is not generally a symptom of osteoarthritis. However, extensive inflammation can cause a low-grade fever.
Lifestyle Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Many people can help control their osteoarthritis symptoms with basic lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about whether these options may be right for you.
People with osteoarthritis should stick to gentle, low-impact exercise. It’s important to stop if you begin to feel any new joint pain. Any aches that last for more than a few hours after you finish exercising mean that you’ve probably done too much.
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on joints. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about how to lose weight safely. Weight loss can help with the pain of osteoarthritis. It may also reduce systemic inflammation that contributes to osteoarthritis.
If your joints are swollen and achy, give them a break. Try to avoid using an inflamed joint for 12 to 24 hours to let the swelling go down. It’s also a good idea to get enough sleep. Fatigue may increase your perception of pain.