Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is very common, with about 8.75 million people in the UK seeking treatment for its symptoms. It causes cartilage (the smooth connective tissue that helps cushion your joints) to become thin over time, resulting in symptoms that can come and go. They may worsen when you’ve been more active or are tired, or during weather changes. In more severe cases, symptoms are continuous.

Commonly Affected Joints

Many different types of joints can be affected, but the following are most common:

  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Small joints of your hands -- especially the base of your thumb, the middle joints of your fingers, and the joints close to your fingertips
  • Spine

Common Symptoms

The following are some of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis:


You may experience aching pain that can worsen as you move your joint and especially at the end of the day. The pain can sometimes radiate to nearby areas. Affected joints may also feel tender. These symptoms can sometimes worsen if you haven’t moved the joint in a while.

Stiffness and Reduced Range of Movement

Osteoarthritis can cause stiffness, especially in the morning or after you’ve been sitting. A reduction in your range of movement can also occur, and you may find that you can’t move your joints into the same positions as you could previously. If your knees have osteoarthritis, for example, you may find it more difficult to straighten your legs.

A Change in the Shape of Your Joint

Joints can develop hard bony growths and become swollen over time. This may give them a larger appearance and may also change their shape.

Crunching and Grinding Noises and Sensations

You may experience increased grating and grinding as you move your joints.

Weakness in the Affected Joint

If the affected joint is one that bears weight, such as a hip, you may find that your joint is less stable and tends to give way when you put weight on it. This happens because the muscles around your joint can become weaker over time.

Cysts or Bumps

If you have osteoarthritis in your fingers, you may develop fluid-filled cysts on the backs of your fingers or a bump at the base of your thumb.

Disrupted Sleep

If your osteoarthritis causes pain at night, you may have trouble sleeping.

You’ll probably be able to notice some patterns in your osteoarthritis symptoms. Sometimes they may vary for reasons that you can’t identify, but often you’ll be able to relate worsening symptoms to weather conditions or your activity level.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of osteoarthritis, see your doctor. He or she can help develop a treatment plan for your specific condition that may include medication, physical therapy, or exercise.