Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that’s symptoms can alter a person’s physical structure, function, sensation and experience.



There are a number of structural changes that can occur with osteoarthritis including thinning of cartilage, bony spurs and inflammation. As a result of these changes, symptoms of osteoarthritis may include swelling, redness and/or a change in the appearance of the joint shape. This alteration in structure can also be why a lot of people with OA have reduced range of movement at a joint.


Our joints contain a fluid called synovial fluid, which helps to lubricate the joint. In cases of OA, this fluid can become inflamed called synovitis. This inflammation can lead to an increase in the temperature of the joint which can be another symptom of OA.


Sensation refers to what a person feels. Often individuals with osteoarthritis report a constant dull ache in their joints. Occasionally they may experience sharper shooting pains close to the joint. A sensation of heat or burning may also be experienced. One of the most common symptoms reported is the sensation of morning stiffness in the joint for less than 30 minutes.


Function refers to a person's ability to complete day to day tasks. An individual that presents with functional symptoms of osteoarthritis may find difficulty and/or pain with the following tasks depending on the joints affected;


  • Weight bearing through legs

  • Walking for a period of time

  • Bending down for a period of time

  • Getting up after sitting down

  • Gripping objects or pushing through arms (hand OA)

These symptoms can be very debilitating for some and can lead to experiences such as worrying about how they will manage mobility outside of the house and having to sit down regularly when completing tasks causing everything to take double the time.


When considering how OA affects an individual, their functional limitations are just as important as their pain levels. There is no one symptom that should be seen as always a priority over another. Every individual is different and will have different ideas of what their functional levels and pain levels should be. What one person may consider high functioning and low pain, another person may consider low functioning and high pain.


Make sure you’re seeing a health care professional that understands your needs.