Is it arthritis?

Arthritis is different from occasional aches, pains and stiffness. Everyone experiences aches and pains in their joints from time to time. This often happens after a joint is exercised, put under excessive strain, used in ways the joint isn’t used to, or due to a slight injury.

Often, these aches and pains fade away after a few days of rest, gentle exercise, and over-the-counter painkillers. These day-to-day aches and pains don’t necessarily need treatment or for you to see your GP.

How can I tell if I have arthritis?

You can distinguish between occasional aches and pains and arthritis by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Has the stiffness, pain or ache continued for more than 2 days?
  • Is there no obvious reason why the stiffness, pain or ache started?
  • If the stiffness, pain or ache started after a physical activity, is the level of pain or immobility higher than you would expect?
  • Does the pain in the joint get worse after being still for a while e.g. lying or sitting down?
  • Is the pain at its worse in the morning?
  • Are the joints swollen?
  • Is the joint red and warm to the touch?
  • Is it painful to squeeze or touch the joint?
  • Are you in your late 40s or older?
  • Does someone in your family have arthritis?
  • Is the stiffness, pain or ache stopping me from living my normal daily life?
  • Does the joint make a grating or cracking noise when you move it?
  • If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, speak to your GP. If you’re not sure, it’s best to see your GP anyway.

Will the GP think I’m wasting their time with complaints about pain?

Every year, 21% of all GP visits are related to joint problems, including arthritis. This means your GP won’t think it’s unusual to discuss these symptoms or your levels of pain. Your symptoms may vary in their severity, may come and go over time, and can develop gradually or suddenly. This often happens with arthritis, and your doctor will still want to see you.

Even if you don’t have arthritis, your GP can discuss with you how to prevent or slow down the progression of arthritis, and any warning signs you should look out for. If you are diagnosed with arthritis, an early diagnosis is really beneficial to slowing down the progression of arthritis. This will help you be as active as possible for as long as you can.