Arthritis Signs

You go for a long run one evening and the next day your right knee is achy and stiff. Or maybe you notice tenderness and swelling in your knuckles when you wake up every morning.

Could these aches and pains be the warning signs of arthritis?

Possibly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 54 million adults in the United States have arthritis. It is a leading cause of work disability among people 18 to 64 years old.

Risk Factors for Arthritis

You’re more likely to get arthritis if:

  • You’re older (risk increases with age)
  • You’ve suffered an injury to a joint
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re a woman
  • One or both parents had arthritis
  • You play a sport or have a job that requires repetitive motion
  • You’re a smoker

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Types of Arthritis

Arthritis is not just one disease. It’s an umbrella term that describes more than 100 conditions affecting the joints, including gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Joint pain and stiffness are the primary symptoms of both.

Signs of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. The CDC says it affects 32.5 million adults in the United States.

Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between bones breaks down from wear and tear. It typically affects the bigger joints of the body (hips, knees, spine) but can also occur in fingers, wrists, and toes.

Tell your doctor if you have any of the following signs of osteoarthritis:

  • Pain and stiffness in weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, and lower back
  • The pain is grinding or grating (many people describe the pain as a “bone-on-bone” feeling)
  • Your pain is in a single joint (one knee may have arthritis but not the other)
  • Your joints make noise (cracking, grinding, popping) when you move
  • The affected joint is swollen and warm
  • Morning stiffness (lasts less than 30 minutes)
  • You feel stiff when you get up after sitting for an extended period of time
  • Joints become inflamed or tender (sore to the touch)
  • Your range of motion feels limited
  • An old injury starts aching
  • You feel muscle weakness around a joint
  • Your joints seem unstable or ready to give out or buckle
  • Your joints ache after playing a sport or doing a job with repetitive movements

Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. It occurs when your immune system misfires, attacking healthy tissue in the joints and causing painful inflammation.

Left untreated, the inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can damage the heart, lungs, and other internal organs.

According to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network, 1.5 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Women are three times as likely as men to develop the disease.

Tell your doctor if you have any of the following signs of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • You are more likely to feel pain in small joints, like those in hands and feet
  • Your morning stiffness lasts an hour or more
  • Pain affects more than one joint
  • Soreness often occurs in the same joint on both sides of the body
  • You feel tired, weak, and irritable
  • You have a low-grade fever
  • Your appetite is decreased
  • You’re losing weight for no apparent reason
  • You’re developing small lumps under the skin over bony areas, like hands
  • Symptoms come and go, but flare-ups can last days or months

While there is no cure for either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor can recommend effective treatments that make it easier to live with these conditions.

To learn more or schedule an appointment with UPMC Orthopaedic Care, call 1-866-987-6784 or visit

CDC, Arthritis Basics

CDC, Arthritis Fact Sheet

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, What is Arthritis?

Arthritis Foundation, Do I Have Arthritis?

Arthritis Foundation, Osteoarthritis

Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network, RA Facts: What are the Latest Statistics on Rheumatoid Arthritis?

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.