Below are six signs that can help you to differentiate general joint pain from pain due to arthritis.
1. Stiffness in morning
One of the hallmark signs of early onset of arthritis is morning joint stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes to one hour. Initially stiffness decreases with increased movement as the day progresses. But as the disease progresses, stiffness lasts for a longer time with increased period of inactivity.
2. Minor tenderness and joint swelling
Inflammation is a characteristic feature of arthritis. Inflammation causes the joints to become tender. Mild swelling is seen around the affected joint which subsides as the inflammation reduces.
3. Pain on touching
Due to swelling and inflammation, the affected joint becomes painful. Pain can be excruciating, burning or radiating. Often the swollen joints turn sensitive and are painful on touch.
4. Reduced range of motion (ROM)
Every joint can be moved to a defined limit through bending and stretching. This is called the range of motion that helps us to perform our activities of daily living.
In the early stages of arthritis this range of motion gets affected. Due to stiffness and swelling, you may find it difficult to bend or straighten your joints normally for performing daily tasks. The ROM may be reduced for one or more joints.
With mild inflammation, if you experience numbness, tingling sensation or cracking sound from your joints, it could indicate arthritis. Inflamed tendons in hands and feet build up pressure on the nerves causing numbness and tingling.
Inflammation also causes damage to the cartilage, allowing the joints to grind against each other as you move them.
6. Unusual fatigue
General fatigue is common with muscle or joint pain. But, with early onset of arthritis, you might feel fatigued very often, even before the symptoms of painful swelling and reduced range of motion occur. You might have flare-ups of symptoms followed by fatigue, which, in the initial stages, may come and go.