Arthrosis: Symptoms (w/ Online Quiz), Diagnosis, Types & Treatment

Arthrosis is the wear and tear of cartilage in a joint in the body, such as the knee, spine, shoulder or hip. This breakdown of cartilage leads to inflammation in the area due to the contact of one bone with another, and causes symptoms such as swelling, chronic pain, stiffness and difficulty performing movements.

Arthrosis, also referred to as osteoarthritis, is more common in older adults due to natural wear and tear on joints from aging, but it can also develop a result of repetitive movements, trauma, or obesity.

Treatment for arthrosis should be guided by an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist who may prescribe medication and physiotherapy to relieve symptoms, or surgery for more serious cases. 

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Common symptoms

The main symptoms of arthrosis are:

  • Chronic pain in the affected joint
  • Difficulty performing movements and reduced flexibility
  • Swelling, redness or increased sensitivity in the joint
  • Joint stiffness, especially after waking up
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or arms
  • Presence of clicking or feeling of sand when moving the joint

Furthermore, as the disease progresses, visible deformities may also appear in the affected joint region, which can worsen symptoms.

Therefore, if you notice symptoms of arthrosis, it is important to consult an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist for diagnosis and treatment as necessary.

Also recommended: Joint Pain: 8 Common Causes (& How to Treat)

Online symptom checker

To determine your risk for arthrosis, enter your symptoms below:


This test should only be used as a guidance tool It does not provide a diagnosis nor should it replace a consultation with a doctor.

Confirming a diagnosis

An arthrosis diagnosis starts with an assessment of the patient's symptoms, personal and family health history. This is followed by a physical examination, in which the doctor observes movements in the affected joint and assesses for any limitations or pain. Typically, this assessment is completed by an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist.

The doctor may also order imaging tests, such as X-ray or MRI, to check the severity of joint damage. These results can help to confirm a diagnosis and classify the type of arthrosis present, which will help to guide treatment.

Types of arthrosis

Arthrosis can be classified into several types according to the affected joint, the main ones being:

1. Knee arthrosis

Knee arthrosis affects the knee cartilage, which can cause difficulty walking, bending down, climbing stairs and stretching the leg. It is common for arthrosis to be noted in both knees, however the degree of change may vary between them. 

Also recommended: Knee Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment Options

2. Hip arthrosis

This type of arthrosis affects the hip joints and causes pain and difficulty walking.

3. Facet arthrosis

Facet arthrosis affects the spine, and is characterized by wear and tear of the cartilage between the vertebrae. It can develop in different areas of the spine, such as the neck region, known as cervical arthrosis, or in the lumbar spine, causing back pain or neck pain, and difficulty moving. 

Read more about what can cause neck pain and how to treat it.

4. Hand arthrosis

This type of arthrosis affects the joints of the hands, the joints of the fingers and particularly the thumb jointed. It causes symptoms like pain, swelling, deformities in the fingers, difficulty picking up small objects and a lack of strength. 

5. Shoulder arthrosis

Shoulder arthrosis affects the cartilage of the shoulder joint, causing symptoms of pain in the shoulder that radiates to the neck and difficulty moving the arm. 

6. Acromioclavicular joint arthrosis

This type of arthrosis affects the acromioclavicular joint, which is located in the shoulder between the acromion and clavicle bones. It is associated iwth pain when turning or lifting the arm.

Possible causes

The exact cause of arthrosis is not fully understood, however, it arises due to wear and tear on the joint, which results in the contact of one bone with another and inflammation. The cartilage's function is to protect the joint and prevent friction between the bones, and a loss of this cartilage can lead to significant discomfort.

Some factors may increase the risk for developing arthrosis include:

  • Natural aging 
  • Family history of arthrosis
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Congenital joint deformities or bone dysplasia
  • Injuries, such as fractures, sprains or blows that affect the joint
  • Gout, joint misalignment, low bone density, or osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus

Other factors that increase the risk of arthrosis are diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, menopause, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, or hemochromatosis.

Additionally, muscle weakness, repetitive efforts, such as repetitive squatting or kneeling while lifting heavy objects, or playing sports or work that puts stress on the joints can also increase the risk for arthrosis.

Treatment options

Treatment for arthrosis should be be guided by a rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon and is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing the disease from progressing.

The main treatments for arthrosis that your doctor may recommend are:

1. Medications

Medications that your doctor may prescribe to treat arthrosis include analgesics like acetaminophen, oral anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen, or topical anti-inflammatories like diclofenac, diethylammonium or capsaicin. These can help to control pain and joint inflammation.

In addition, the doctor may prescribe duloxetine, which is an antidepressant that is often prescribed to relieve chronic pain caused by arthrosis.

2. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy may be prescribed by your doctor to help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint. It can increase flexibility and movement, and reduce pain and stiffness.

Treatment should be guided by a physiotherapist who can indicate the most appropriate exercises on an individual case, as this approach will vary depending on the stage and type of arthrosis the patient presents with. 

During physiotherapy sessions, the physiotherapist may utilize electrostimulators and ultrasound devices to stimulate the joint, reduce inflammation, promote healing and manage pain. If the patient also presents with poor posture, the physiotherapist can also carry out global postural re-education.

In addition, the physiotherapist can provide the patient with exercises to be done at home to complement the physiotherapeutic treatment. Pain and discomfort can also be relieved with ice or heat applied on the area.

3. Weight loss diet

In cases where arthrosis, especially of the knee or hip, are related to excess weight or obesity, the doctor may recommend a consult with a registered dietitian, in order to start a weight loss diet.

Furthermore, it is important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which helps to reduce the production of substances in the body that stimulate inflammation, like prostaglandins and cytokines.

Also recommended: Arthritis Diet : What to Eat & Avoid (with 3-Day Meal Plan)

Patients with arthrosis should opt for foods that are rich in vitamins, omega-3, polyphenols, carotenoids or flavonoids, such as tuna, sardines and salmon, strawberries, oranges, avocados, chestnuts, walnuts or broccoli.

4. Joint injections

The doctor can also recommend corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid injections to help treat arthrosis.

This type of treatment is generally indicated for cases of moderate to severe pain that does not improve with the use of oral medications.

Corticosteroid injections into the joints help to improve pain immediately and its effects can last for up to 12 weeks.

Hyaluronic acid is a substance similar to a component that is normally found in joints and acts as a shock absorber. It helps to lubricate painful joints in the hands or fingers and can help to relieve pain.

5. Surgery

Surgery is indicated for cases where the use of medication and physiotherapy have not been effective in relieving symptoms and when pain persists even after months of conservative treatment.

The surgery involves scraping scar tissue the joint or removing the affected joint and replacing it with a prosthesis. It is generally necessary to undergo physiotherapy following surgery to speed up recovery.

How to prevent

One of the main forms of treatment is the prevention of arthrosis. Worsening of arthrosis can be prevented by taking measures such as: 

  • Maintaining an ideal weight
  • Maintaining ideal body posture
  • Avoiding heavy lifting, especially in the shoulder region
  • Avoiding repetitive exercises
  • Avoiding carrying out forced labor

Arthrosis is a chronic degenerative disease and treatment is aimed at relieving pain and inflammation, slowing the progress of the disease, and improving movement and quality of life.