What Does Arthritis Feel Like

What Does Arthritis Feel Like

Joints allow movement whenever two bones come together. Arthritis is a condition caused by wearing down of the cartilage in any of these joints. Arthritis leads to inflammation and pain in the joint.

Arthritis is a very common condition that can occur in any joint in the body. Almost everyone has some degree of arthritis in multiple joints by the time they reach age 40.y, it can also affect multiple joints.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common by far is osteoarthritis, which is arthritis caused by wear and tear over many years.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another common cause of arthritis. It is a systemic arthritic condition that runs in families and leads to increased inflammation and severe arthritis at a young age.

What’s the most common symptom of arthritis?

Joint stiffness and pain are two of the most common arthritis symptoms, but there are others to look out for. But there are other symptoms you should pay attention to.

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms in or around any of your joints you might be worried that you have arthritis.

Read on to discover more in-depth information about this condition.

Know The Different Types Of Arthritis

Before we go more in depth on the symptoms of arthritis, let’s discuss the two most common types – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, in more detail.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Holding For Wrist

This is a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of joints.

When this lining is attacked, it leads to inflammation or what is commonly called swelling. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis destroys not just the lining but also the cartilage that cushions the joint all the way to the bone.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect many other organs and tissues in the body, so it can present with many other symptoms beyond just joint-related pain, swelling, and stiffness.


Holding For Painful Knee

Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage that covers the bones within the joint starts to break down from wear and tear. This is a common and inevitable result of aging.

Eventually the cartilage wears down completely and bone rubs against bone which not only causes pain but decreases motion in the joint.

This type of arthritis typically slowly develops over many years but can also be exacerbated by an injury or infection.

While osteoarthritis can occur in an joint, some of the most common areas where people experience osteoarthritis include the hands, spine, hips, and knees.

What Are The Early Signs Of Arthritis?

If you notice any of the following symptoms, you might have arthritis.

  • Joint stiffness, warmth, and swelling. These symptoms all point to joint inflammation. Another symptom linked to inflammation is joint tenderness. Joints that are affected by arthritis can feel tender when you touch them. If you press your fingers around the joint and feel pain then that is likely a sign that the joint is inflamed and may be developing arthritis.
  • Pain and inflammation in tendons. Tendons are connective tissues that connect muscles to bones. These tendons surround the joints and can become irritated by some types of arthritis.
  • Constant pain in the joints. A sudden increase in pain can be caused by a flare-up of your arthritis or by a separate acute injury to tissues around the joint. If your pain has stuck around for longer than six weeks it can point to arthritis rather than a musculoskeletal injury and you should consider getting it evaluated by your physician.
  • Pain in other types of the body. It’s common for arthritis to cause pain that radiates to other parts of your body. This is especially true for neck or back arthritis which often leads to pain radiating to the arms or legs.
  • Fever, weight loss, or fatigue. Systemic arthritic conditions can sometimes be associated with whole-body symptoms like fever, weight loss, or fatigue as your body tries to fight off the inflammation. These symptoms can be indications of a more severe condition and you should get these checked by your physician as soon as possible.

As you can see from the above symptoms, arthritis doesn’t just affect the joints.

Systemic arthritic conditions can even affect other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and lungs, Therefore, if you’re experiencing symptoms for which you don’t know the cause, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor.

How Long Does An Arthritis Flare-Up Last?

Man Holding For Shoulder

People with arthritis often experience flare-ups of their symptoms.

These flare-ups tend to involve sudden, intense joint pain but they can also present with other symptoms, such as fatigue, swelling of the joints, fever, and stiffness.

People who have osteoarthritis can have a flare-up that involves just a single joint or multiple joints. This can be due to an increase in activity, an illness, or many other reasons

People with systemic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis more often have multiple joint flares occurring at the same time.

One warning sign that you are beginning to experience a flare-up is morning stiffness.

This is when you wake up in the morning and feel like your joints are stiffer than usual.

Your joints might also take longer to loosen up making it difficult to complete your daily activities. If your flare-up worsens you might feel this stiffness all day long.

There are different ways in which an arthritis flare-up can play out.

Flare-ups can last for weeks or months. In this case you should consider changing your treatment plan to try to limit the flare-up quickly.

You should consult your physician but there are several options available to treat an acute flare-up of chronic arthritis. One option is to treat with a corticosteroid, which is a very strong anti-inflammatory medicine that can be give either orally or as an injection directly into the joint to decrease the severity of symptoms within a few days.

A corticosteroid injection directly in the joint is the most efficient way to deliver the medicine and has the quickest results.

Can Arthritis Hurt All The Time?

Knee Arthritis

Earlier, we touched on how having arthritis pain that lasts longer than six weeks can help a doctor to make the diagnosis, but does that mean arthritis pain is constant?

Not necessarily. For some people, arthritis can come and go. For others, though, the pain can be ongoing and get in the way of their daily life.

Arthritis pain can also come on in different ways. For example, it might only occur when you are physically active, or it might strike when you move after having rested for a while.

While the pain might be intermittent, different types of pain can also be experienced.

Some people with arthritis might feel pain in one spot, such as in one joint, while others will feel it in several places in their body. It really varies from one person to the next.

But, What Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like?

It’s not always easy to know if the pain you’re experiencing is from arthritis or another health condition.

Frequently arthritis first appears as a dull ache in the joint, which is known as arthralgia. This often happens after activity.

If you’ve been very active with the joint, such as after an intense session at the gym, arthritis pain will set in afterward.

Interestingly, some people with arthritis experience pain with weather changes, such as colder temperatures or higher humidity. Others have more pain when they first get up in the morning or at the end of a long day on their feet.
Arthritis pain can be variable so you have to pay attention to your individual pain pattern!

What Does Arthritis Feel Like On A Daily Basis? 

The more specific you can be describing your pain, the more helpful it will be to your physician making the diagnosis.

The interesting thing about arthritis pain is that it can vary quite a bit depending on the type you have. So if you provide details about your experiences it will help your doctor make the right diagnosis.

We’ve already touched on some of the differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, now let’s compare them side by side.

Osteoarthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis
You feel achy pain coming from deep inside the joint/joints Your joints feel hot and sore
Your pain improves when you rest your body Your pain goes through phases. Sometimes it’s mild and at other times it’s worse
You pain gets worse as the day progresses Your joints feel stiff when you wake up in the morning
You feel pain that radiates from the joint to other areas of your body Your pain is more aching and you can be fell sore all over the body
You feel pain in a joint after activity, such as knee pain after you’ve bent down Your joint pain tends to occur on both sides of the body, so both wrists or knees will get sore
Your joint pain, particularly in your spine, can impact your posture, making it difficult to walk upright Your pain makes you feel tired and you might even get depressed
Your joints can swell  Not only will your joints swell but the surrounding muscles will feel weak
You don’t feel like you can move the joint as much as you used to You appetite decreases and you might even lose weight
You feel bones that grind when you move your joint You have a low grade fever
Your joint pain seems to get worse in rainy or humid weather You have swollen, sore glands
You battle to complete your daily to-do list because of your joint pain Your muscles can feel sore and achy 
You feel relief in the joint after resting it, but also experience stiffness and decreased range of motion with decreased activity Your joint pain actually gets worse with rest

How To Manage Arthritis Symptoms

Looking At Arthritis Symptoms

If you are diagnosed with arthritis, your doctor may put you on medication to treat your symptoms.

This medication usually starts with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills.

You might also be given topical ointments or stronger medication such as opioids. Oral corticosteroids to decrease inflammation can be very effective.

For systemic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis there are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that prevent your immune system from damaging your joints.

Possible Side Effects Of Arthritis Medication

All medications will have side effects. When it comes to arthritis medication, here are some of the most common ones and their possible side effects.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): heartburn, nausea, stomach ulcers, upset stomach, and an increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack.
  • Corticosteroids: increased blood fats, increased blood sugar levels, increased appetite, cataracts, and bone loss.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): upset stomach, increased vulnerability to infections, liver problems. 

Lifestyle Habits To Help Alleviate Symptoms

Medication aside, there are also some positive lifestyle changes you can make to alleviate symptoms of the disease and perhaps even help you deal with the side effects of the medication.

Watch your weight

Man Standing On Scale

If you’re battling extra pounds, losing a bit of weight can help to minimize strain on your joints and prevent you from having to take painkillers for arthritis pain.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that when people with osteoarthritis lost weight through exercise and diet over the period of a year and a half, they reported having less pain in their knees.

Eat a diet that’s rich in lots of vitamins

This will help increase your energy – that’s great for the arthritis-related fatigue we mentioned earlier!

In addition, eating healthier will help to lower your weight, which will give you many benefits, such as less joint pain.

Do exercises that reduce your pain

While you don’t want to overdo it with exercise as it can put a strain on your joints, there are some arthritis-friendly exercises you can do to keep your joints flexible.

These include cycling, tai chi, and dance.

You should avoid exercises like running, tennis, high-impact aerobics, and any other exercise that involves repeating the same movement over and over again, such as tennis.

This can cause strain on your joints.

Use heat and cold

Heat and cold treatments can help to alleviate pain.

The use of heat, such as with a heating pad, can increase blood flow to the area where you’re experiencing pain, thus reducing stiff and sore muscles.

On the other hand, cold treatments, such as with the use of an ice pack, can help to numb the afflicted area and lower inflammation, so it’s a good idea if your joint pain is caused by arthritis flare-up.

Find ways to relieve stress

Woman Meditating

If you’re stressed out about your arthritis pain, this can actually make your symptoms worse.

Do daily stress-relieving exercises, such as journaling, going for walks, reading, or meditating.

This is important because not only can living with a chronic illness cause you stress, but it can cause you to change how you perceive pain.

It can actually increase your pain perception! This makes you feel like you can’t manage your pain, which increases your stress, causing the situation to snowball.

Related Questions

Is arthritis genetic?

Genetically, some people are more prone to developing arthritis in their lives, but it’s worth noting that other factors, such as smoking, infections, and injuries, can interact with their genes and this is what increases the risk of arthritis, as Medical News Today reports.

Is arthritis a disease that only affects older people?

Although it mostly affects people as they get older, arthritis can be a condition that strikes people of all ages – even children can get it.

Approximately 40 million people in America have arthritis, as reported by the University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.


Arthritis is a medical condition that affects the joints, but can have a variety of different symptoms throughout the body.

These differ between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, two common types of the disease.

By looking out for these symptoms, you can help your doctor to make a correct diagnosis and start controlling the condition in a much better way.  

Although arthritis is a condition that can’t be cured, with the right treatment the symptoms can be successfully managed.

There are also lifestyle changes that can reduce arthritis symptoms, such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and focusing on stress-relief strategies.

Although arthritis is a chronic illness, it doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks.

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