Arthritis is a selection of diseases that takes its toll on the joints and surrounding tissue. The most common form is osteoarthritis (OA). It is a type of arthritis that nearly everyone will experience as they age. The older one is, the more likely OA is a part of daily life.
The question we hear a lot from new patients is whether their joint pain indicates early-stage osteoarthritis. Sometimes that is the case; other times it's not. At KindlyMD, we undertake a thorough evaluation of each new patient with the goal of learning what is causing the pain in question.
Could your joint pain indicate early-stage OA? It is possible. Ask yourself the following questions:
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease. Therefore, pain in the muscles would indicate something else. The same goes for things like headaches and toothaches. If the pain you feel is in the joint, OA is a strong possibility. As a side note, a lot of OA patients experience back pain.
We don't tend to think of the back as a site for OA pain. Rather, our first thoughts are about the knees, fingers, shoulders, and other joints. Yet the spinal column includes more than 360 joints that run from the neck down to the pelvis. Any one of those joints can be subject to OA.
Joints afflicted with osteoarthritis tend to be tender to the touch. If you are experiencing early-stage OA, lightly brushing up against an affected joint probably wouldn't cost too much discomfort. On the other hand, pressing the joint would generate pain. The pain could also be accompanied by swelling and redness. However, swelling doesn't have to be present. In many patients, swelling does not present itself until the disease reaches a more advanced stage.
Osteoarthritis is caused by a loss of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage is the protective, cushioning tissue that exists between the two bones of the joint. As it begins to wear away, the bones do not move so freely. There is more friction between them and, as a result, the joint becomes stiff.
People with early-stage OA often describe joint stiffness first thing in the morning. They describe it as making them feel slow, sluggish, and not able to get going right out of bed. But after taking a shower and getting the body moving, the stiffness disappears.
This sort of joint stiffness is a pretty significant sign of early-stage OA. Other things can cause it, but OA is one of the more likely causes.
Joint stiffness is one of the symptoms of a loss of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis. But there is another symptom: the sensation that your bones are grating on one another. If you have OA, it is not just a feeling; it is exactly what's happening.
In healthy joints, cartilage prevents the two bones from coming into direct contact with one another. But once cartilage is lost, there is nothing to prevent that contact. The two bones in a joint are constantly in contact. There is friction – and that grating sensation – every time the joint moves.
If you have noticed any of these things in relation to your joint pain, there is a possibility you are experiencing early-stage osteoarthritis. The best way to know for sure is to visit with an experienced pain doctor for a complete evaluation. Although OA is fairly common, it is a very treatable disease. Early treatment is one of the keys to maximizing pain relief.