What Are the First Symptoms of Arthritis?

Twenty-three percent of American adults – that is, 54 million people – are living with arthritis and related conditions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that by 2040, this number will rise to 78 million.

And while the number of arthritis sufferers is constantly growing, there are still many people who don’t know the important symptoms to look out for – or they brush off its early warning signs as an inevitable part of aging.

What Is Arthritis?

There are more than 100 conditions classified as arthritis, with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being the most common. The timely diagnosis of arthritic conditions is essential to successful treatment, because otherwise precious time is lost – and the condition usually becomes worse if left untreated.

Treating autoimmune diseases such as RA within the first few months of their onset will help minimize joint deformities – and with OA, it may help preserve mobility.

Common Symptoms of Arthritis

If you’re noticing any of the following indicators, it’s important to seek the help of an orthopedic expert as soon as possible. This will help to ensure that you protect your joints from ongoing pain and long-lasting damage due to inflammation.

Joint Pain

Joint pain is perhaps the symptom most synonymous with arthritis, and it’s usually the catalyst that propels patients to seek medical treatment. While severity of joint pan can vary, the discomfort is usually worst during activity and is relieved while at rest.

Pain in the knees – if no prior injury has occurred – is usually a telltale sign that arthritis is developing. The knees are the largest joints in the body, and they are one of the most common sites for OA. A target for wear-and-tear, they support the weight of our entire body, and with obesity on the rise this can really take on a toll on their delicate structures.


Many people’s bodies experience a little bit of stiffness upon waking in the morning, so this symptom is often ignored. However, if you experience this regularly, you may have a degenerative form of arthritis that should be treated by a doctor.

Those with RA will experience this stiff feeling throughout the day – particularly in the smaller joints such as the fingers – which is a sign that there’s an inflammation issue. Your doctor may recommend heat application and certain anti-inflammatory medications to mitigate this discomfort.


Swelling is a visible sign which may indicate that arthritis is developing. Our joints are lined with soft tissue called synovium, and lubricated with synovial fluid. In people with arthritis, the synovium will swell and its fluid will increase in volume. When more inflammatory cells and blood rush to the joint, it will become enlarged and feel warm.

In some cases, swelling can arise due to an infection, so your physician will need to conduct a blood test to confirm the underlying cause. It’s best not to self-diagnose. Inflammation can also cause the sensations of tingling and numbness that so many RA sufferers report, because swelling of the joints puts pressure on the surrounding nerves.

Decreased Range of Motion

If you were always an active person, but now climbing stairs and completing everyday activities seem like an uphill battle, you should speak with your physician. A decrease in range of motion is a very common early symptom of arthritis.

While moving may be painful, your doctor or physical therapist can recommend special targeted exercises that will be beneficial for keeping you active.

Chronic Fatigue

One of the most elusive (yet common) symptoms of arthritis is chronic fatigue. Because this feeling can accompany so many other conditions, it is often incorrectly attributed to other disorders.

Permeating the whole body, chronic fatigue can take a toll both physically and psychologically. A multidisciplinary approach with access to a rheumatologist, physical therapist, mental health specialist, and occupational therapist may be needed to properly address all of the facets of this condition.

Who Can Help with My Arthritis Pain?

The dedicated team at OrthoUnited has extensive experience diagnosing and treating many types of arthritis. Experts in pain control, we offer a variety of solutions for patients of all ages.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (844) 469-2663. You can also fill out our simple online appointment request form right now so we can get started. We look forward to helping you live a more pain-free lifestyle.