Think you’re too young to worry about arthritis? Think again…half of those who get it are under age 65, but it’s only diagnosed later after years of ignoring early, and surprising, warning signs – aside from pain, which is only one of the most common symptoms.
“Early is better with arthritis diagnosis,” says Arthritis Foundation Vice President Patience White, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Treating the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) within the first months of onset, for example, can minimize joint deformities and even put the disease into remission, thanks to the latest treatments. With osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease that’s the most common kind of arthritis, the sooner you start behavioral changes, the better you may be able to manage pain and preserve mobility, White says.
Trouble moving in the morning. Waking up and being unable to move about easily for half an hour or longer. Everybody has some morning stiffness, but normally it fades as you stretch and start moving. “With rheumatoid arthritis, it can take 30 minutes or more to loosen up — sometimes hours, or even all day,” says Chaim Putterman, chief of rheumatology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “People affected say they feel encased, like prisoners, and the feeing of being unable to move can be even more burdensome than the actual pain.”
Why pay attention: Stiffness after inactivity is a hallmark symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. It can recur later in the day when you’ve been sitting still for awhile — after watching a movie, for example. With osteoarthritis, the more you use your affected joints, the worse they tend to feel; with rheumatoid arthritis, the more you move, the better it feels, Putterman says.