Osteoarthritis tends to progress slowly at first, with joints slightly aching after physical activity. Later on, joint pain may become more persistent and/or more severe. It's common to experience stiffness in the joints.
Although osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, most often it affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. While most patients with osteoarthritis experience joint stiffness, joint swelling, or the sound of bone rubbing on bone, several other signs of the disease depend on the specific joint affected.
Hands: Osteoarthritis that affects the hands tends to be hereditary. If your family has a history of osteoarthritis in their hands, the risk of developing the condition becomes greater. Women are more likely than men to have hand involvement and the disease typically develops after menopause. When osteoarthritis involves the hands, small, bony knobs may appear on the end joints of the fingers. They are called Heberden's nodes. Similar knobs, called Bouchard's nodes, can appear on the middle joints of the fingers. Fingers can become enlarged and gnarled, and may often ache or be stiff and numb. The base of the thumb joint also is commonly affected by osteoarthritis.
Knees: Symptoms of knee osteoarthritis include stiffness, swelling, and pain, which make it hard to walk, climb, and get in and out of chairs and bathtubs. Osteoarthritis in the knees can lead to disability.
Hips: As with knee osteoarthritis, symptoms of hip osteoarthritis include pain and stiffness of the joint itself. Sometimes pain is felt in the groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or even the knees. Osteoarthritis of the hip may limit movement and bending, making daily activities such as dressing and putting on shoes a challenge.
Spine: Osteoarthritis of the spine may show up as stiffness and pain in the neck or lower back. In some cases, the condition can put too much pressure on the spine and its nerves, causing weakness or numbness of the arms and legs.