Osteoarthritis is a common condition affecting the joints that can affect mobility and quality of life. It can limit daily function such as ability to squat down or carry heavy objects.
This article reviews the signs and symptoms used to diagnose osteoarthritis.
It is a very common; 8.5 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis (Arthritis Care, UK 2002).
Osteoarthritis may first appear between ages 30 and 40, and is present in almost everyone by age 70.
There are several symptoms associated with arthritis and can include:
- Morning stiffness of stiffness after periods of inactivity
- Achy joints
- Restriction range of motion/ impaired mobility
- Crepitus or grinding sound on movement
Symptoms are most likely felt in large weight-bearing joints in one or more sites especially the hip, knee, spine and hand.
Osteoarthritis can develop as we age or from other factors, such as injury or being overweight.
It is important that if you experience these symptoms that you consult a suitably qualified health professional for an assessment and diagnosis.
Most people with arthritis or degenerative joint pain have already been to their doctor to get it diagnosed.
In my experience there are some times when you MUST see your physician about your joint pain.
Here is my advice, if you have any of the following:
- joint pain that is causing persistent pins and needles or numbness
- spinal pain with weakness in your arms or legs, pins and needles, or loss of control of bladder and bowel (you need to see your doctor immediately for this one)
- undiagnosed trauma or significant injury that has not been assessed
- joints that lock regularly or give way on you (especially knees)
- unexplained weight loss
- constant unremitting night pain
- unable to weight bear through the joint
- undiagnosed joint pain for more than 2 weeks
Then you MUST consult your physician. Not all joint pain is from arthritis, and an accurate diagnosis is very important.
Your health professional will ask a series of questions to learn more about the symptoms then do an objective assessment.
On examination there may be swelling around the joint, heat, deformity, and pain on manual joint compression.
This could be confirmed by X-ray imaging where your health professional could see any of the following:
- narrowing of the joint space
- bony spurs or osteophytes
- alignment changes of the joint
It is important to know that signs follow symptoms and that in early arthritis you may experience some symptoms of osteoarthritis before the signs. As the condition develops it is more pronounced on X-ray imaging. Your health professional will look at the total clinical picture for the diagnosis.
Once you have received a diagnosis it is important to establish a systemised management plan that you can easily integrate in to your life to proactively manage your osteoarthritis. The earlier and more comprehensive your plan is in the beginning the better for your overall outcome.