Symptoms of osteoarthritis include the following:
- Pain in the joint
- Most commonly affected joints are those of the knee, hip, hand, or spine
- Pain usually increases when the joint is used or stressed
- Pain is usually decreased by resting the joint
- May be described as a dull, achy pain or a sharper, stabbing sensation
- Stiffness can make everyday activities difficult, such as leaning down to pick something up, putting on shoes, opening a jar, walking, or climbing stairs.
- Stiffness occurs first thing in the morning is common, usually lasting under 30 minutes after you resume activity.
- Stiffness after any period of inactivity is common (such as after sitting still for a couple of hours in a movie theater or on an airplane).
- Stiffness decreases your range of motion, so that you can’t bend or unbend a joint as far as you normally could.
- You may have a feeling of instability in the joint. For example, your knee may feel as if it is going to buckle underneath you.
- You may feel or hear a grating or creaking sound when you bend or unbend your joint.
- Your joint may develop an abnormal appearance:
- It may appear inflamed, red, swollen.
- It may appear misaligned or misshapen.
Arthritis Foundation website. Available at:
Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 21st ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2000.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
Manek NJ, Lane NE. Osteoarthritis: current concepts in diagnosis and management.
American Family Physician. 2000;51(6). Available at: