What Does Arthritis Feel Like

What Does Arthritis Feel Like

Arthritis is joint inflammation.

While it can affect just one joint in the body, it can also affect multiple joints.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but two of the most common ones are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

What’s the biggest symptom of arthritis?

Joint stiffness and pain are two of the most common arthritis symptoms, but there are others to look out for. In fact, some might be surprising because we always hear that pain is such a hallmark of the condition.

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms in your joints or elsewhere in your body that is making you worry, you might wonder if you have arthritis.

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

Know The Different Types Of Arthritis

Before you can check your symptoms to see if you have arthritis, it’s good to know that the two most common types – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis – often show up in different ways.

Let’s take a look at what they both entail.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Holding For Wrist

This is a disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of joints before moving on to the actual joints.

When this lining is attacked, it can become inflamed and even cause swelling. Eventually, rheumatoid arthritis can destroy bone and cartilage inside the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect organs and tissues in the body, so it will present with many other symptoms instead of being limited to joint-related pain and stiffness.


Holding For Painful Knee

This is when the cartilage that covers the bones where they form a joint start to disintegrate.

This causes a bone-on-bone situation to occur that can cause pain and decrease one’s ability to move.

This type of arthritis can take its time to develop over the years or it can come on suddenly when triggered by an injury or infection.

Some of the most common areas in the body where people will experience symptoms of osteoarthritis include the hands, spine, hips, and knees.

What Are The Early Signs Of Arthritis?

If you’re noticing some of the following symptoms, you might have arthritis.

  • Joint stiffness, redness, 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. Try to press your fingers around the joint. If this feels painful, then that’s a sign that the joint is inflamed.
  • Pain and inflammation in tendons. These surround the joints and can be a target for some types of arthritis.
  • Constant or intermittent pain in the joints. Sometimes, arthritis can lead to flare-ups when symptoms intensify. However, if your pain has started and has stuck around for longer than six weeks, then that can point to arthritis instead of a musculoskeletal injury, as the Arthritis Society reports.
  • Pain in other types of the body. It’s common for arthritis to result in neck and back pain, and these can be considered markers of the disease, as Everyday Health reports.
  • Fever. This tends to be a persistent, low-grade fever when it’s associated with the disease.
  • Weight loss. This is definitely a surprising symptom of arthritis! However, it can be caused because of a lower-than-usual appetite, which is due to the body fighting off inflammation. In addition, when you have inflammation in your body, this can increase your metabolic rate so you burn off more calories, as The Healthy reports.
  • Fatigue. Interestingly, fatigue is one of the earliest signs of rheumatoid arthritis. You might feel like you don’t have enough energy for things you used to be able to do easily or feel down because your body is fighting off an infection. Fatigue can set in months before other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms present themselves, and in many people, it’s accompanied by not feeling well or a general sense of malaise. If you’ve been feeling fatigued, then it’s probably a good idea to check in with your doctor as it can be linked to various health conditions.

As can be seen from some of the above symptoms, arthritis doesn’t always stick to affecting the joints.

It can even affect the body’s organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and lungs, as eMedicine Health points out.

Therefore, if you’re experiencing symptoms for which you don’t know the cause, it’s a good idea to chat to your doctor.

How Long Does An Arthritis Flare-Up Last?

Man Holding For Shoulder

People who have arthritis can experience flare-ups of their symptoms.

These tend to involve sudden, intense joint pain but they can also be 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 single joints or they’ll experience recurrent flare-ups with the same, multiple joints, as Very Well Health points out.

On the other hand, people with rheumatoid arthritis can have multiple joint flares occurring at the same time.

A warning sign that one is starting to experience a flare-up is morning stiffness, as the Arthritis Foundation points out.

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

They might also take longer to loosen up so that you can complete your daily activities with ease. However, if you’re experiencing a bad flare-up, 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. However, changing one’s treatment can help to treat a flare-up quickly, especially in the case of a severe one.

One treatment method is to give patients low-dose prednisone which can help to decrease the severity of symptoms within a few days.

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 you’re experiencing pain from arthritis or if it’s as a result of another health condition.

Here’s something that might help you and your doctor to make the arthritis diagnosis.

When you first start experiencing pain from arthritis, you’ll most likely have arthralgia, as Healthline reports.

This can be described as a dull ache or even a burning sensation. What often happens is that this pain will come up after the activity.

If you’ve been using the joint a lot, such as if you’ve had an intense session at the gym, the pain will set in afterward.

Interestingly, some people with arthritis will experience dull aches when the humidity changes or when they first get up in the morning, so it really does vary but the above are some pain indicators to keep an eye out for!

What Does Arthritis Feel Like On A Daily Basis? 

While you might tell your doctor where you feel pain, it might not be enough.

Therefore, if you can provide even more specific details about your experiences this will help your doctor make the right diagnosis.

The interesting thing about arthritis pain is that it can vary quite a bit depending on the type you have.

We’ve already touched on how the pain can occur and feel differently, but let’s compare osteoarthritis to rheumatoid arthritis to see how they both play out.

OsteoarthritisRheumatoid Arthritis
You feel achy pain that feels like it’s coming from deep inside a joint/jointsYour joints feel hot and sore
Your pain lessens when you rest your bodyYour pain goes through phases. Sometimes it’s mild and other times it’s worse
You don’t feel pain in the morning – it gets worse as the day progressesYour joints feel stiff when you wake up in the mornings
You feel pain in other areas of your body, such as your thighs and buttocksYour pain feels like it’s aching and this can be felt all over the body
You feel pain in a joint after you’ve used it, such as knee pain after you’ve bent downYour joint pain tends to occur on both sides of the body, so you’ll have both wrists or knees get sore
Your joint pain affects your posture, making it difficult to walk uprightYour pain makes you feel tired and you might even get depressed
Your joints are swollen Your muscles feel weak
You don’t feel like you can move the joint as much as you used toYou don’t have the same appetite as you used to, and you might even lose weight
You feel bones that grind when you move themYou have a low fever
Your joint pain seems to get worse in rainy or humid weatherYou have swollen, sore glands
You battle to complete your daily to-do list because of your joint painYour muscles are targeted, and they can feel sore and achy 
You feel relief in the joint after resting it, but also experience stiffnessYour joint pain actually gets worse after you’ve rested for a long time

How To Manage Arthritis Symptoms

Looking At Arthritis Symptoms

If you have arthritis, your doctor will put you on medication to treat it.

This medication usually consists of over-the-counter painkillers.

You might also be given topical ointments that relieve symptoms, or stronger medication such as stronger painkillers, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that stop your immune system from striking your joints, and corticosteroids that lower inflammation.

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 it 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 and being more aware of them, you can help to get a diagnosis from your doctor sooner and start controlling the condition in a much better way.  

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

In addition, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce arthritis symptoms, such as by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and focusing on stress-relief strategies.

It’s clear to see that a chronic illness such as arthritis doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks.

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