How do you know if your inflammation and stiffness means you have arthritis? Only a health care professional can tell you for sure, but certain signs usually point to arthritis. There are four important warning signs that should prompt you to talk to a health care provider.
- Pain. Pain from arthritis can be constant or it may come and go. It may occur when at rest or while moving. Pain may be in one part of the body or in many different parts.
- Swelling. Some types of arthritis cause the skin over the affected joint to become red and swollen, feeling warm to the touch. Swelling that lasts for three days or longer or occurs more than three times a month should prompt a visit to the doctor.
- Stiffness. This is a classic arthritis symptom, especially when waking up in the morning or after sitting at a desk or riding in a car for a long time. Morning stiffness that lasts longer than an hour is good reason to suspect arthritis.
- Difficulty moving a joint. It shouldn’t be that hard or painful to get up from your favorite chair.
Your experience with inflammation and stiffness will be important in helping your doctor pin down the type and extent of arthritis. Before visiting the doctor, keep track of your symptoms for a few weeks, noting what is swollen and stiff, when, for how long, and what helps ease the symptoms.
If the doctor suspects arthritis, they will perform tests to check the range of motion in your joints, asking you to move the joint back and forth. The doctor may also check passive range of motion by moving the joint for you. Any pain during a range of motion test is a possible symptom of arthritis.
Treating inflammation and stiffness can involve medicine, both prescription or over-the-counter, and other methods.