Most of us experience a few aches and pains in our joints now and then, especially if we have been doing more exercise than usual. They might become more frequent as we get older, or put on weight. But how can you tell if your pain is an early warning sign of arthritis, or just tired and overworked muscles? 

It’s important not to ignore persistent pain in the joints, or just accept it as part of getting older. Arthritis is a degenerative condition, and if it is left untreated, it could severely limit your movement, and affect your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as walking, washing, dressing, and cooking. 

It may also put you at increased risk of falls, because your suppleness, strength and balance will become gradually reduced over time. This increases the risk of fractured or broken bones, which may result in a further reduction in your mobility. 

There are two major types of arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis. This occurs when fluid building up around a joint, as part of the body’s attempt to repair damage. Eventually, the joint cartilage thins, and the nerve endings become more sensitive, leading to pain and stiffness.

The next most common type is the rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory condition in the joints, causing them to swell and become stiff and painful. Here are the main symptoms to be aware of.


Joint pain

The most obvious signal that you may have arthritis is joint pain. You may notice that it is worse after taking exercise, or at certain times of day. The hips, knees, and hands are some of the most commonly affected areas, and the pain may gradually worsen over time. 

Swelling in the joints

Swollen joints are a classic symptom of arthritis, and fluids can build up, causing the area to feel hot and tender to the touch. Some of the swollen areas might feel bony rather than soft. 


Joint stiffness

Stiffness of the joints, which may cause you to have more restricted movements, or move more slowly and less nimbly than you used to. You may find it has been worse after you have been inactive for a while, such as first thing in the morning. The stiffness may wear off after half an hour or so.


Grating or grinding sounds as you move

Arthritis causes the cartilage which protects the end of the bones to wear thin, so that the bones begin to rub against each other, This is why you might notice a creaking or grinding sound as you move. 

The most common areas to experience arthritis symptoms are in the knees, the hips, the neck, the lower back, and the fingers and thumbs. These symptoms tend to affect people over 45 more often, but they can occur at any age. However, if you are younger, the pain is more likely to be the result of an injury.

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