Osteoarthritis is a common condition that causes pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility in the joints. Doctors use a grading system to classify the severity of osteoarthritis. Mild osteoarthritis is grade 2.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, which means it gets worse over time. It can affect any joint in the body but usually affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Mild osteoarthritis occurs when an individual begins to experience symptoms. It is also the stage at which a doctor can see significant arthritic changes in the joints on X-ray images.

This article looks at mild osteoarthritis and its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

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Mild osteoarthritis is grade 2 osteoarthritis, according to the Kellgren-Lawrence classification system. Osteoarthritis has four stages:

  • Grade 1 (Minor): A person may have no symptoms. There is minimal or no joint space narrowing. Bone spurs, or bony outgrowths, may occur.
  • Grade 2 (Mild): Bone spurs are present. There is often joint space narrowing.
  • Grade 3 (Moderate): Definite joint space narrowing is evident on imaging studies. There is also moderate bone spur formation. A person may have hardening of the joint tissue and deformities at the bone ends.
  • Grade 4 (Severe): There is critical joint space narrowing with large bone spurs. Also, the tissues become hardened and bone ends become deformed.

In mild osteoarthritis, a person begins to experience typical arthritis symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness. Usually, stiffness worsens upon waking in the morning and resolves as the person starts moving.

Learn more about osteoarthritis.

A person may develop mild osteoarthritis as a result of age-related wear and tear. Over time, the cartilage, or connective tissue, that protects the ends of bones starts to break down, or degenerate.

Degeneration can also occur as a result of an injury or infection in the joints.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, including athletes and those with physically demanding jobs. Overuse of the joints can cause damage and lead to the development of osteoarthritis. However, a lack of physical activity is also a risk factor.

Other risk factors include:

Mild osteoarthritis often affects the knees. It can damage all areas of the joint, including:

  • the cartilage covering the ends of the bones
  • the joint lining
  • tendons and ligaments
  • the meniscus, which is the rubbery cartilage that absorbs shock between the shinbone and the thigh bone

A common symptom is knee pain that worsens with activity and after long periods of sitting. People may find that the knee hurts more when they have not used it for several hours.

Knee X-ray

At this stage, X-rays of the knee show bone spur growth. Although arthritis is present, it is minimal. The cartilage is usually still fairly healthy, and the space between the bones is typical. There is still enough fluid within the joint — called synovial fluid — to lubricate the knee.

The cartilage and synovial fluid act as a buffer, so the bones do not come into contact with each other and grind.

Learn more about osteoarthritis of the knee.

As with mild knee osteoarthritis, mild hip osteoarthritis can damage all areas of the joint, including:

  • cartilage
  • bone
  • tendons and ligaments

A person may experience pain in the groin, buttocks, or thighs that worsens with activity or after long periods of sitting. The pain may make walking, climbing stairs, or getting in and out of chairs difficult.

Hip X-ray

At this stage, X-rays show bone spur growth around the joint. There is still space between the bones, so they do not grind against each other.

However, the joint space may narrow toward the front of the joint. The cartilage, although healthy, begins to thin. There may be slight subchondral sclerosis, or hardening of bone.

Learn more about osteoarthritis of the hip.

Various treatments can help people manage symptoms of mild osteoarthritis, including:

  • exercise and physical therapy to help improve mobility, range of motion, and strength
  • weight loss to decrease stress on the joints
  • activity modifications to avoid joint pain and reduce stress
  • braces to support painful joints

A doctor may also recommend topical or oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Cortisone injections within joints can also be helpful.

Mild osteoarthritis is the second earliest stage of the condition. A person with mild osteoarthritis may experience minor symptoms but will not yet have significant joint damage.

In contrast, a person with moderate or severe osteoarthritis has more extensive joint damage and may experience more severe symptoms, including:

  • joint deformities
  • loss of mobility
  • intense pain

Additionally, moderate or severe osteoarthritis can lead to disability.

No. Osteoarthritis has no cure and will not go away. It is a progressive disease, which means it gradually gets worse over time.

However, treatments can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. This means that a person with mild osteoarthritis can maintain a good quality of life and remain mobile.

Learn more about how a healthy diet can help people with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease affecting the joints. It often occurs as people age, causing pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion.

Mild osteoarthritis is the second earliest stage of the disease. It is grade 2 of the Kellgren-Lawrence classification system. At this stage, a person may experience only mild symptoms that may not affect their daily life significantly.

Various lifestyle strategies and medications can help people manage the symptoms of mild osteoarthritis and slow the progression of the disease.