Are you wondering if your joint pain is from getting older or a sign you are getting arthritis?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control projects that by 2025, 67 million people will have confirmed arthritis (diagnosed by their doctor).
While there are a few things you can do to prevent arthritis, it’s often out of your control, and the only thing you can do is manage your symptoms to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
In this article, we’ll look at the common signs of arthritis and what you can do if you suspect you are one of the millions impacted.
Types of ArthritisArthritis can be separated into two types – inflammatory and non-inflammatory – resulting from different causes.
InflammatoryInflammatory types of arthritis are a result of your body’s immune system reacting in error and causing inflammation throughout different parts of your body.
When inflammatory arthritis first starts, it may cause “flare-ups” or times when the inflammation and symptoms associated with it or worse.
Since the symptoms come and go at this point, you may not immediately recognize it as arthritis.
Some inflammatory types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthropathies, which include psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis.
On the other side, there are non-inflammatory types of arthritis that are often the result of aging or an injury and are not caused by an immune response.
10 Signs You May Have ArthritisWhether you have an inflammatory or non-inflammatory type of arthritis, many of the signs and symptoms are often the same with some small nuances.
PainJoint pain is many times the first signal that what they are experiencing may be arthritis.
Joint pain can affect every individual differently. Some people report that the pain is more of a dull aching feeling, and others report more sharp, shooting pains that radiate from their joints.
In addition to other types of pain, many people living with arthritis report that they sometimes experience a burning sensation.
TendernessAt times, arthritis pain may come in the form of tenderness as opposed to constant discomfort.
You might notice soreness when you try to perform everyday tasks like typing or holding a pen.
The tenderness in your joints could come and go and could possibly be mistaken for invisible bruising. If it continues, the cause may be arthritis.
SwellingBoth inflammatory and non-inflammatory types of arthritis come with swelling.
The swelling from inflammatory type arthritis comes from the immune response inflaming your joints’ lining, whereas swelling from non-inflammatory arthritis is caused by the connecting bones in the joint rubbing together.
You may want to apply heat or ice packs to help control the swelling.
StiffnessYou may find that stiffness in your joints worsens after periods of inactivity, such as overnight.
If you are waking up feeling like you cannot bend your joints without a lot of extra stretching and effort, that could be a sign of arthritis.
It’s essential to get enough stretching and movement during the day to help ease that stiffness.
Changes in Range of MotionThe stiffness can also progress to a limited range of motion in people with arthritis.
Many times it’s more comfortable to keep joints bent and resting, but this can cause more pain later.
If you notice that your range of motion is decreasing in any of your joints, you can begin to incorporate range-of-motion exercises to keep your joints loose and improve your range.
As arthritis progresses, the cartilage in the joints deteriorates, and the bones will begin to rub together. When the cushioning is gone, you may notice that you can feel (and sometimes hear) the bones grinding when you move.
This grinding and popping in the joints is called crepitus.
Numbness or Tingling Sensation
Another sign of arthritis is numbness or tingling in your joints.With inflammatory types, like rheumatoid arthritis, this tingling is caused by the inflammation within the joint putting pressure on surrounding nerves.
But for non-inflammatory types, like osteoarthritis, it can be caused by extra bone growth that irritates the nerve and results in numbness.
You may also discover that you also suffer from increased weakness in certain parts of your body. For instance, you may find your hand strength decreases, and you struggle to keep a good grip on items.
With all of the potential pain, swelling, and stiffness that comes with arthritis, you may not want to use them as much, and the restricted use will weaken your muscles.
Along with weakness, you could be hit by fatigue. Fatigue can be attributed to the lack of rest you can get due to discomfort, or the body’s inflammatory response can cause it.
Whichever the case, you may need to build extra rest time into your schedule during trying periods.
Bumps Around Joints
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can result in bumps forming around your joints. Nodules caused by rheumatoid arthritis are caused by inflammatory tissue. With proper treatment, most nodules that develop are small and often not painful.
The bumps caused by osteoarthritis are small pieces of bone that develop as a response to the cartilage in the joint wearing down and the bones rubbing together.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is associated with aging and obesity.
Due to the cartilage in the joints degenerating, there is no cure or way to slow down this type of arthritis. It can only be managed in an effort to keep the pain to a minimum.
Next Steps: Arthritis Treatments
If you find that you experience several of the above signs of arthritis, it’s time to visit your doctor. It’s important for your doctor to determine what type of arthritis (if any) you may have, or if there is another underlying medical issue.
How your treatment is managed will depend on your diagnosis. Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam, as well as perform X-rays and/or blood tests to come to the correct diagnosis.
Some ways that other arthritis sufferers have found to help manage their symptoms are:
- Heat or ice
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)
- Arthritis creams
- Braces or splints
Your doctor may also prescribe a stronger NSAID or DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) if appropriate.
There are surgical treatment options, but they are typically used as a last resort because there is no cure for arthritis, and the issues are likely to re-occur.
ConclusionWhile arthritis isn’t pleasant, there are treatments available to help you manage the symptoms.
The signs outlined in this article are symptoms that many people diagnosed experience, but you may only have some of them and still have arthritis.
Any time you find yourself uncomfortable for a period of time and wondering what’s wrong, it’s best to consult your doctor to get to the bottom of it.