What Is Mild Osteoarthritis? (2022)

Mild osteoarthritis (OA), or grade 2 osteoarthritis, is the first grade, or stage, of osteoarthritis in which significant changes to the joints become evident on X-ray. In this stage, the space between joints begins to narrow as cartilage breaks down and osteophytes, or bone spurs, form from increased pressure and friction within joints. Joint pain and stiffness are commonly felt in the affected joints, and evidence of mild osteoarthritis is visible on X-rays.

What Is Mild Osteoarthritis? (1)

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

The World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Kellgren-Lawrence classification system as the standardized criteria for diagnosing OA. It was originally used to grade osteoarthritis of only the knee, but it's now used to grade OA in other joints commonly affected by arthritis, including:

  • Carpometacarpal joint (CMC) of the thumb
  • Cervical spine (neck)
  • Distal interphalangeal joints (DIP) of the fingers
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Lumbar spine (lower back)
  • Metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP) of the hands
  • Wrists

The Kellgren-Lawrence classification system is the most widely used clinical tool for diagnosing OA using radiographic imaging like X-rays. It categorizes OA into the following grades:

  • Grade 1 (Minor): Minimal or no joint space narrowing, with possible bone spur formation
  • Grade 2 (Mild): Possible joint space narrowing, with definite bone spur formation
  • Grade 3 (Moderate): Definite joint space narrowing, moderate bone spur formation, mild sclerosis (hardening of tissue), and possible deformation of bone ends
  • Grade 4 (Severe): Severe joint space narrowing, large bone spur formation, marked sclerosis, definite deformation of bone ends

What Is Mild Arthritis?

Grade 1

Minor osteoarthritis, or grade 1, is when OA begins and there is little to no pain. Many people are unaware that they have OA at this time until they have X-rays of a joint taken for some other reason, such as a broken bone, or fracture. Any symptoms during grade 1 typically only include minor discomfort that does not interfere with or limit your ability to perform daily activities.

Grade 2

Grade 2 osteoarthritis is the first stage of OA in which a person begins to experience joint pain and stiffness, especially upon waking in the morning. Stiffness at this time of day often lasts less than 30 minutes, as joints begin to loosen up as you start moving.

Grade 3

Moderate osteoarthritis, or grade 3 OA, is when your cartilage breaks down even further, causing increased joint pain and stiffness. Pain and stiffness, especially in the hips and knees, are noticeable after resting, such as from sitting for a long time. Symptoms can also worsen with activity like standing, walking, squatting, and going up and down stairs.

Grade 4

Severe OA, or grade 4 osteoarthritis, is the highest level of progression of osteoarthritis. There is severe joint space narrowing, large osteophyte formation, and significant bone deformation and sclerosis. Joint degradation is severe, and surgical management, including joint replacement, called arthroplasty, or joint fusion, called arthrodesis, is often indicated to manage severe symptoms.

(Video) Knee arthritis symptoms and treatment - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

Common Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Causes of Mild OA

Mild OA often develops from age-related wear and tear in joints over time. Anyone who repetitively uses their joints, including athletes, military personnel, and people with physically demanding jobs, are at risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of mild OA or progressing symptoms include:

  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • History of trauma or joint injury
  • Low levels of physical activity

What Causes Osteoarthritis?


Mild OA, or grade 2 osteoarthritis, is distinguished from other stages of osteoarthritis by the extent of joint damage observed through X-rays. In this stage, joint damage becomes evident as joint spaces begin to narrow from cartilage degradation.

Cartilage lines the ends of bones between joints and provides protective cushioning and shock absorption. As cartilage begins to break down and wear away, the space within joints becomes smaller. This causes increased friction between bones, which can also lead to the development of bone spurs.

You may first speak to your primary care provider about your joint pain. Your healthcare provider will go over your medical history, symptoms, how the pain affects your activities, the medications you use, and any other medical problems you may be experiencing. Your healthcare provider also will examine and move your joints.

Besides X-rays, your healthcare provider may also perform the following tests to make a diagnosis:

  • Joint aspiration:After numbing the area, your healthcare provider will insert a needle into the affected joint to remove synovial fluid, or joint fluid. This test can detect infection, red and white blood cell counts, and whether crystals are present in the fluid. The results can help rule out other medical conditions or other forms of arthritis.
  • MRI:MRI gives a better view ofcartilage and soft tissue and can show damage and inflammation of the joint.

Your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopedist or a rheumatologist, depending on the cause and symptoms of your OA. For instance, an orthopedist may treat you if your OA needs surgical intervention, and a rheumatologist may treat you if you have an autoimmune disorder.

(Video) Osteoarthritis - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & pathology

How to Distinguish Osteoarthritis From Other Types of Arthritis


A variety of treatment methods helps to manage symptoms of mild OA. Based on clinical research, the American College of Rheumatology strongly recommends the following interventions for managing symptoms:

  • Exercise and physical therapy to improve joint mobility, range of motion, and to strengthen surrounding muscles for joint support
  • Weight loss to decrease pressure and strain on arthritic joints, especially weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees
  • Modifying activities in order to lessen strain on painful joints

Besides lifestyle changes, your healthcare provider may also recommend medications and devices to help you cope with OA symptoms:

  • Knee and thumb braces to support painful joints and lessen discomfort from everyday activities
  • Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief and to reduce inflammation
  • Topical NSAIDs to decrease pain signals, especially from OA of the hands and knees
  • Cortisone injections within joints to reduce pain and inflammation

Natural Osteoarthritis Pain Relief Remedies


OA is a progressive condition that can slowly get worse over time if left untreated. While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, if osteoarthritis is detected early, treatment can help manage symptoms and slow progression and joint degeneration.

Lifestyle changes may be needed to help prevent mild osteoarthritis from progressing further to moderate or even severe levels. These include:

  • Regular exercise to decrease pain and stiffness and strengthen surrounding muscles to support arthritic joints
  • Joint protection strategies to rest inflamed joints and prevent overuse, which can increase joint wear and tear

Discover If All Osteoarthritis Symptoms Are Destined to Get Worse

A Word From Verywell

Strengthening the muscles surrounding arthritic joints is essential for decreasing strain on your joints and preventing mild osteoarthritis from progressing to more severe forms of the disease. It is important that you seek medical attention if you have been experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or swelling for more than three months.

(Video) Osteoarthritis Overview (causes, pathophysiology, investigations, treatment)

An early diagnosis may help you manage your symptoms and prevent further damage. In turn, you should be able to perform all your daily tasks and activities without significant limitations.

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(Video) Osteoarthritis Signs & Symptoms (& Why They Occur)

4 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Kohn MD, Sassoon AA, Fernando ND. Classifications in Brief: Kellgren-Lawrence Classification of Osteoarthritis. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2016 Aug;474(8):1886-93. doi:10.1007/s11999-016-4732-4

  2. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis by the Numbers: Book of Trusted Facts and Figures.

  3. Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis.

    (Video) Learn About Knee Osteoarthritis (OA)

  4. Kolasinski SL, Neogi T, Hochberg MC, Oatis C, Guyatt G, Block J, Callahan L, Copenhaver C, Dodge C, Felson D, Gellar K, Harvey WF, Hawker G, Herzig E, Kwoh CK, Nelson AE, Samuels J, Scanzello C, White D, Wise B, Altman RD, DiRenzo D, Fontanarosa J, Giradi G, Ishimori M, Misra D, Shah AA, Shmagel AK, Thoma LM, Turgunbaev M, Turner AS, Reston J. American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation Guideline for the Management of Osteoarthritis of the Hand, Hip, and Knee. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020 Feb;72(2):149-162. doi:10.1002/acr.24131


What Is Mild Osteoarthritis? ›

Mild OA, or grade 2 osteoarthritis, is distinguished from other stages of osteoarthritis by the extent of joint damage observed through X-rays. In this stage, joint damage becomes evident as joint spaces begin to narrow from cartilage degradation.

Is mild osteoarthritis serious? ›

Osteoarthritis is a long-term condition and cannot be cured, but it doesn't necessarily get any worse over time and it can sometimes gradually improve. A number of treatments are also available to reduce the symptoms. Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including: regular exercise.

How is mild osteoarthritis treated? ›

Mild to moderate symptoms are usually well managed by a combination of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments. Medical treatments and recommendations include: Medications (topical pain medicines and oral analgesics including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, NSAIDs). Exercise (land- and water-based).

What stage is mild osteoarthritis? ›

Stage 2 (Mild) Stage 2 OA of the knee is considered a mild stage of the condition. X-rays of knee joints in this stage will reveal greater bone spur growth, but the cartilage is usually still at a healthy size.

What should you not do with osteoarthritis? ›

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the United States.
5 Foods to Avoid
  • Red meat and fried foods. Fried foods and red meat contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are known for stimulating inflammation. ...
  • Sugars. ...
  • Dairy. ...
  • Refined carbohydrates. ...
  • Alcohol and tobacco.
Dec 21, 2020

How do you stop osteoarthritis from progressing? ›

Slowing Osteoarthritis Progression
  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
  2. Control Blood Sugar. ...
  3. Get Physical. ...
  4. Protect Joints. ...
  5. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.

Is mild osteoarthritis curable? ›

There's no cure for osteoarthritis, but the condition does not necessarily get any worse over time. There are a number of treatments to help relieve the symptoms. The main treatments for the symptoms of osteoarthritis include: lifestyle measures – such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.

What is the main cause of osteoarthritis? ›

What causes osteoarthritis? Primary osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, a rubbery material that eases the friction in your joints. It can happen in any joint but usually affects your fingers, thumbs, spine, hips, knees, or big toes. Osteoarthritis is more common in older people.

What is the best thing to take for osteoarthritis? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Over-the-counter NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), taken at the recommended doses, typically relieve osteoarthritis pain.

What is difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis? ›

The main difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is the cause behind the joint symptoms. Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the body's joints. It may begin any time in life.

How quickly does osteoarthritis spread? ›

In extreme cases, some cases of osteoarthritis may remain stable for decades, while others progress very rapidly to complete destruction of the cartilage in the space of a few months. It is difficult if not impossible today to predict how fast the evolution of your osteoarthritis will be.

Can mild osteoarthritis reversed? ›

A. You can't reverse osteoarthritis, but there are things you can do to manage your pain and improve your symptoms. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that acts as cushioning between your bones starts to fray and wear down over time.

Does walking worsen osteoarthritis? ›

Should I give up or still do it? A) This is quite a dilemma. On the one hand you have osteoarthritis of the back and hips, and power walking on hard surfaces is likely to aggravate it. On the other hand you have early osteoporosis, and weight bearing exercise is recommended to delay further bone loss.

What is the new treatment for osteoarthritis? ›

ACI has been shown to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, including pain and mobility. It can also slow or stop osteoarthritis developing, delaying or preventing the need for joint replacement surgery. This makes it particularly useful for younger people with early-stage osteoarthritis.

Does osteoarthritis make you tired? ›

People with OA often have to exert extra physical effort in order to carry out the basic daily tasks of living. This can cause fatigue. Inflammation is caused by chemical mediators called cytokines. They can also cause fatigue.

Is osteoarthritis permanent disability? ›

Osteoarthritis is a long term disability, so being awarded an SSDI benefit gives you the financial support you need for years to come.

Does osteoarthritis show up on xrays? ›

Regardless of the joint that is affected, osteoarthritis is revealed on conventional radiographs (X-rays) by characteristics that are distinct from other joint disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Will osteoarthritis cripple me? ›

Osteoarthritis (OA) can be crippling if untreated as it disintegrates the cartilage that supports the joints of the spine, knees, hands, and spine. This causes debilitating pain because the bones start rubbing against one another.

Where does osteoarthritis start? ›

Osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear and tear arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints of the hips, knees, and spine.

How do you know what stage of osteoarthritis you have? ›

The four stages of osteoarthritis are:
  1. Stage 1 – Minor. Minor wear-and-tear in the joints. Little to no pain in the affected area.
  2. Stage 2 – Mild. More noticeable bone spurs. ...
  3. Stage 3 – Moderate. Cartilage in the affected area begins to erode. ...
  4. Stage 4 – Severe. The patient is in a lot of pain.
Oct 2, 2020

Does exercise make osteoarthritis worse? ›

Unfortunately, excessive, vigorous workouts may increase arthritis symptoms and potentially hasten the progression of the disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast can also be a detriment to your joints, adds Dr. Lingor.

What foods should be avoided if you have osteoarthritis? ›

Avoid inflammatory foods including sugar, deep-fried foods, saturated fats, full-fat dairy, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and preservatives like MSG. Anti-inflammatory foods can relieve pain from osteoarthritis. These include fruits, vegetables, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains.

How do doctors test for osteoarthritis? ›

X-rays are typically used to confirm the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. X-rays can reveal assymetric joint space narrowing, osteophytes at the joint margins, joint space narrowing, and subchondral bone sclerosis. Subchondral bone is the layer of bone that is just below the cartilage.

What is osteoarthritis pain like? ›

The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and sometimes stiffness in the affected joints. The pain tends to be worse when you move the joint or at the end of the day. Your joints may feel stiff after rest, but this usually wears off fairly quickly once you get moving. Symptoms may vary for no obvious reason.

Can stress cause osteoarthritis? ›

Osteoarthritis involves a breakdown of joint cartilage. This happens naturally with age, but an injury or another form of physical stress can accelerate the process.

Does vitamin D help with osteoarthritis? ›

These studies found no benefit of vitamin D supplementation on OA progression. However, subset analyses and one randomized controlled pilot trial indicated that vitamin D supplementation may alleviate joint pain in OA patients with low vitamin D status (<50 nmol/L).

How can I naturally lubricate my joints? ›

Consuming healthy fats can increase joint health and lubrication. Foods high in healthy fats include salmon, trout, mackerel, avocados, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods will assist in joint lubrication.

What over the counter medicine is good for osteoarthritis? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs reduce inflammation as well as ease pain. These are some of the most popular medications given for arthritis. NSAIDs include aspirin, celecoxib, ibuprofen, and naproxen. They are usually taken in pill form but may cause stomach upset or bleeding.

Can you live a normal life with osteoarthritis? ›

The good news is that you can live — and live well — with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. You can get relief from its pain and its consequences.

What is the most painful type of arthritis? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

Can osteoarthritis affect your bowels? ›

Arthritis does not directly affect the bladder or bowel for most people. It is the loss of mobility and joint stiffness that prevents a person from being able to move quickly enough to get to the toilet on time and manage their clothing.

Can osteoarthritis turn into rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Secondary Osteoarthritis

That medical condition can be RA because of the damage it does to your joints. 3 However, that's not always the case in someone with RA who develops OA. The co-occurrence can be just a coincidence.

How long does osteoarthritis take to become severe? ›

The amount of time it takes to reach an advanced stage of OA varies. For some people, the disease worsens slowly and may take years to reach stage four, but others may see it progress quickly within several months.

Is mild osteoarthritis curable? ›

While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, if osteoarthritis is detected early, treatment can help manage symptoms and slow progression and joint degeneration. Lifestyle changes may be needed to help prevent mild osteoarthritis from progressing further to moderate or even severe levels.

How quickly does osteoarthritis progress? ›

Osteoarthritis does not evolve uniformly, it is unpredictable. It can remain silent for a long time and not manifest itself even though the joint looks very damaged on the X-ray. But it can also worsen rapidly over several weeks or months at a stage when the X-rays are almost normal.

Can you live a normal life with osteoarthritis? ›

The good news is that you can live — and live well — with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. You can get relief from its pain and its consequences.

Can mild osteoarthritis reversed? ›

A. You can't reverse osteoarthritis, but there are things you can do to manage your pain and improve your symptoms. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that acts as cushioning between your bones starts to fray and wear down over time.


1. HOW TO TREAT OSTEOARTHRITIS / OA Signs and Symptoms and Management.
2. Supplements for Osteoarthritis: What Should I Know?
(Hospital for Special Surgery)
3. Tricompartmental Osteoarthritis
(3D4Medical From Elsevier)
4. Osteoarthritis of the Knee - How To Manage It
(Cleveland Clinic)
5. What is Osteoarthritis? (Degenerative Joint Disease)
6. WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS (IN HINDI) - Dr. Sonal Mehra (DM Rheumatology)
(Spine & Rheumatology)

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