Aug 2, 2017
6 Early Warning Signs Of Arthritis
Do you suffer from any of these common symptoms?
It’s often assumed arthritis is a condition which affects the elderly, and the elderly only; however, arthritis is the leading cause of pain and disability in Australia, accounting for approximately 15 per cent of the country’s population.1 And contrary to popular belief, arthritis can affect people of any age. Often transpiring among patients in their 30s, the disease presents a number of red flags at its earliest stage.
Many people suspect arthritis, but avoid sharing their concerns with their doctor and accepting their pain as a circumstance which cannot be avoided. Not only is arthritis eminently manageable, but symptoms of the disease can be rapidly reversed if caught early on.2
Common types of arthritis include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Infectious arthritis
- Birth defects leading to arthritis
There are a number of prevention strategies and improvements to your lifestyle you can implement to preserve your joints and thus, prevent the onset of a bone disease. Nonetheless, patient education is key to disrupting the progression of arthritis; so it’s critical you speak to your doctor after noticing any of these six early warning signs.
1. Joint pain or tenderness
“Joint pain or tenderness can affect patients almost anywhere on the body…”
Joint pain and tenderness is the most reliable indicator of joint inflammation caused by arthritis.3 Pain is often symmetric in nature, and any pain noticed in both hands or wrists, for example, is symptomatic of arthritis-related disease. Joint pain or tenderness can affect patients almost anywhere on the body, but most notice symptoms in their hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet.
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any unusual pain or tenderness. There’s good reason to consider an assessment for orthopaedic surgery to improve persistently painful locking of an arthritic joint.
2. Joint stiffness or swelling
“You can apply hot and cold-therapy to the affected areas to minimise pain and reduce some of the swelling.”
You may have noticed some puffiness or swelling around your joints, which can affect your ability to bend or straighten your extremities; this is due to an increase in cartilage thickness or the buildup of fluid on the joint, commonly observed in the early stages of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.4 You can apply hot and cold-therapy to the affected areas to minimise pain and reduce some of the swelling.
3. Noisy, grinding joints
“...all of these sounds merit an appointment with your doctor.”
Otherwise known as crepitus — noisy, grinding, creaking, or popping sounds are all symptoms of early arthritis.5 The association between popping, cracking and arthritis is however, conflicting, so don’t panic. Yes, these symptoms may come as alarm bells signalling joint disease for some, but often they’re benign. Grinding sounds, on the other hand, do point towards osteoarthritis, and you may require physiotherapy or surgery to correct the stability of your joints.
And so, while noisy knees or wrists aren’t necessarily a cause for concern, all of these sounds merit an appointment with your doctor due to their potential association with arthritis-related disease.
4. Morning stiffness
“Joints affected by arthritis are highly inflamed, with morning stiffness lasting anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours after getting out of bed.”
It’s not unusual to experience stiffness in the morning as your body wakes; but your movement should improve within a few minutes of getting up, or after some light stretching. The degree of morning stiffness in patients in the early stages of arthritis is significant in comparison to your usual rigidity.6 Joints affected by arthritis are highly inflamed, with morning stiffness lasting anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours after getting out of bed.
5. Fatigue or flu-like symptoms
“...early arthritis can play a hand in chronic illness or feeling run-down.
This next common arthritis symptom may come as a surprise to you, but early stages of a bone disease can play a hand in chronic illness or feeling run-down. Systemic inflammation is a disorder caused by rheumatoid arthritis, rendering sufferers of this autoimmune disease acutely fatigued and prone to flu-like symptoms. While fatigue can be part and parcel of the busy lives we lead,rheumatoid arthritis presents a frequent, extreme, and complex experience of fatigue.7 Be on the lookout for any accompanying joint pain or discomfort when it comes to fatigue caused by arthritis.
6. Limited range-of-motion
“Disability in activities which make use of the lower extremities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting up from a seat, is often a reality for those living with a bone disease.”
Restricted joint mobility, especially the bending of the knee and the extension and rotation of the hip, is one of the most limiting symptoms experienced by patients at any stage of their osteoarthritis.8 Activities, which were once second-nature, can begin to offer tremendous challenges for patients in the early stages of arthritis. Disability in activities which make use of the lower extremities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting up from a seat, is often a reality for those living with a bone disease. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, you may notice some changes to your gait, balance and range-of-motion. You should consult with your physician about any difficulties you have with getting about, as early detection is always best.
Your next step is to seek medical advice
Our bodies do a great job of supporting us throughout our lives, so we owe it to our bones to find out whether or not any of the above symptoms require medical attention. It’s important to receive any information and guidance from a trusted medical expert when it comes to addressing those fears.
Treatment options for arthritis include medication, regular exercise and physiotherapy; so if you suspect arthritis-related disability, you should speak to your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon about how you can improve your quality of life. Here are some low-impact exercise options to take the pressure off the sore spots.
Based on the Gold Coast, Dr Jason Tsung is an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in surgery to improve symptoms of arthritis; but only when all other treatments fail to provide relief.
Dr Jason Tsung does not endorse any treatments, procedures or products referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon.
1. March, L.M. and Bagga, H., 2004. Epidemiology of osteoarthritis in Australia. The Medical Journal of Australia, 180(5), p. 6.
2. Emery, P. and Salmon, M., 1995. Early rheumatoid arthritis: time to aim for remission?. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 54(12), p. 944.
3. Ritchie, D.M., Boyle, J.A., McInnes, J.M., Jasani, M.K., Dalakos, T.G., Grieveson, P. and Buchanan, W.W., 1968. Clinical studies with an articular index for the assessment of joint tenderness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 37(3), pp. 393-406.
4. Calvo, E., Palacios, I., Delgado, E., Ruiz-Cabello, J., Hernandez, P., Sanchez-Pernaute, O., Egido, J. and Herrero-Beaumont, G., 2001. High-resolution MRI detects cartilage swelling at the early stages of experimental osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 9(5), pp. 463-472.
5. Lo, G.H., Strayhorn, M.T., Driban, J.B., Price, L.L., Eaton, C.B. and McAlindon, T.E., 2017. Subjective Crepitus as a Risk Factor for Incident Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Arthritis Care & Research.
6. Yazici, Y., Pincus, T., Kautiainen, H. and Sokka, T., 2004. Morning stiffness in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis is associated more strongly with functional disability than with joint swelling and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The Journal of rheumatology, 31(9), pp. 1723-1726.
7. Hewlett, S., Cockshott, Z., Byron, M., Kitchen, K., Tipler, S., Pope, D. and Hehir, M., 2005. Patients' perceptions of fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis: overwhelming, uncontrollable, ignored. Arthritis Care & Research, 53(5), pp. 697-702.
8. Steultjens, M.P.M., Dekker, J., Van Baar, M.E., Oostendorp, R.A.B. and Bijlsma, J.W.J., 2000. Range of joint motion and disability in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Rheumatology, 39(9), pp. 955-961.
Aug 2, 2017
Many people suspect arthritis, but avoid sharing their concerns with their doctor and accepting their pain as a circumstance…
Jul 13, 2017
Recovering from ACL surgery is no walk in the park, and it is likely to entail months of rehabilitation to gain back your motion…
Jul 3, 2017
Swelling, chronic pain, and tenderness can make it really difficult to find the motivation to get moving; but did you know you…