Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of your bones wears down, causing pain and stiffness, particularly in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

The basics

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that affects the joints, especially in people over 50 years old. It occurs when the cartilage in the joints breaks down, causing pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving. While any joint in the body can be affected, the hands, hips, knees, and spine are the most common areas.

Osteoarthritis can significantly impact daily life, making simple tasks difficult and painful. Although there is no cure, many treatment options are available to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. With proper management, many people with osteoarthritis are able to stay active and maintain their quality of life. Early medical attention can make a difference in the outcome, so it's important to seek help if you're experiencing symptoms.

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The presentation of osteoarthritis can vary depending on the joint affected and the severity of the disease. Common symptoms may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the affected joint, particularly after periods of inactivity or overuse
  • Swelling or tenderness in the joint
  • Reduced range of motion, making it difficult to move the affected joint
  • A grinding or popping sensation in the joint during movement
  • The development of bone spurs around the joint, which can be felt as hard lumps under the skin
  • In advanced cases, deformity of the joint and chronic pain that can interfere with daily activities.

These symptoms can develop gradually over time, and may become more severe with age or increased use of the affected joint. It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can help to slow the progression of the disease and improve your quality of life.

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Therapies & treatments


Several medications can be used to manage pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. These may include over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as prescription-strength medications. A pain specialist can work with you to develop a medication strategy for your needs and preferences.


Physical therapy is a commonly used intervention for osteoarthritis, as it focuses on improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion in affected joints. A physical therapist will develop a personalized exercise plan for the individual with osteoarthritis, taking into account the specific joint affected and the severity of the condition. The exercises may include low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling, as well as targeted strengthening exercises for the affected joint.

The physiotherapist may also use manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization or soft tissue mobilization to improve joint function and reduce pain. In some cases, they may also recommend the use of assistive devices such as braces or orthotics to provide support for the affected joint and reduce stress on the joint during activities of daily living.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of rehabilitation that focuses on helping individuals with osteoarthritis to perform daily activities and maintain independence. An occupational therapist may evaluate a person's home and work environment to identify modifications that can be made to improve function and reduce pain. They may also provide assistive devices, such as braces or splints, to support affected joints and decrease stress on them. The therapist may also teach exercises to improve joint range of motion and strength, as well as adaptive techniques to help with tasks such as dressing, grooming, and cooking. Overall, occupational therapy aims to help individuals with osteoarthritis manage their symptoms and maintain a high quality of life.


Nutrition can play a significant role in managing osteoarthritis. A nutritionist can work with individuals with osteoarthritis to create a personalized diet and supplementation plan. They may also provide guidance on weight management, as excess weight puts additional stress on joints and can worsen osteoarthritis symptoms.

Injection Procedures

Corticosteroid Injections

This procedure involves injecting a corticosteroid medication into the affected joint to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It can provide relief for several weeks to several months, but repeated injections may lead to joint damage.

Hyaluronic Acid Injections

Also known as viscosupplementation, this procedure involves injecting hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance in joints, into the affected joint. It acts as a lubricant and shock absorber, helping to reduce pain and improve joint function. The effects can last up to six months.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

This procedure involves drawing a small amount of the patient's blood, processing it to concentrate the platelets, and injecting it into the affected joint. The platelets contain growth factors that can stimulate tissue repair and reduce inflammation, leading to pain relief and improved function.

Nerve Block Injections

This procedure involves injecting a local anesthetic and/or steroid medication around the affected nerves to help block pain signals from reaching the brain. It can provide temporary relief from pain and can be used to help diagnose the source of pain.

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Self-care strategies


Regular low-impact exercise, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can help to maintain joint flexibility, improve muscle strength, and reduce pain.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the load on the joints, decreasing pain and improving mobility.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected joint can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Hot packs, warm baths, or showers can help to ease stiffness, while ice packs or cold compresses can help to reduce swelling.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices, such as braces, canes, or orthotics, can help to reduce joint stress and improve mobility.


Taking breaks and resting the affected joint can help to reduce pain and stiffness. However, it is important to balance rest with regular exercise to prevent further joint deterioration.

Stress Management

Stress can exacerbate pain symptoms, so learning stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can be an effective way to manage pain.

Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment can help improve sleep quality and reduce pain.


Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help to reduce inflammation, support immune function, and aid in weight management. It is important to reduce processed and refined foods, and to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables.


Staying hydrated can help to reduce joint inflammation and improve joint function.

Education and Support

Educating oneself about osteoarthritis, its symptoms, and treatment options can help to improve self-management. Connecting with support groups or seeking out mental health professionals can also be helpful in managing pain-related stress and improving overall quality of life.

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