What Are the Early Signs of Osteoarthritis?

Early signs of osteoarthritis include joint pain and tenderness, joint stiffness, clicking or cracking joints, and reduced range of motion in affected joints, according to Healthline. Patients typically experience joint pain upon waking in the morning or during physical exercise.

In osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, cartilage on the end of bones wears down, explains Mayo Clinic. It most often affects joints in the knees, spine, hands and hips. As of 2015, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, and it often gradually worsens over time.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include obesity, older age, bone deformities, genetics and occupations that require placing repetitive stress on a particular joint, states Mayo Clinic. Diseases such as diabetes, gout and rheumatoid arthritis also increase risk for osteoarthritis. Women have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis than men.

Treatment for osteoarthritis requires exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, according to Mayo Clinic. Medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help to reduce pain, as can applying hot or cold packs and applying over-the-counter pain creams. Braces and shoe inserts can help to reduce pain patients experience when standing or walking. Doctors sometimes recommend cortisone or lubrication injections in the affected joint. In severe cases, surgeons perform joint-replacement surgery.