Osteoarthritis explained

How you can manage your symptoms and keep yourself moving with minimal pain.

Hand pained by osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Not only that, it is the only type of arthritis that is caused by joint wear and tear. Other forms of arthritis are mostly autoimmune disorders, where the immune system attacks its own cells.

What is osteoarthritis?

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage – the protective layer that covers the ends of bones – wears down over time and becomes thin. When there isn’t enough cartilage at the joint, the bones are no longer protected. So when the ends of bones rub against each other during movement, it causes painful and limited range of motion.

Which joints are affected?

Osteoarthritis can happen in any joint, but most commonly affects the fingers, knees, hips and the spine.

What are the symptoms?

Osteoarthritis symptoms can vary from day to day, and from one person to the next. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. Other symptoms include tenderness, swelling, and a creaking sound or feeling upon movement.

Since osteoarthritis makes it painful to move, it affects normal daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and opening jars.

What causes osteoarthritis?

In many people, there is no clear cause of osteoarthritis. It develops gradually over many years and before symptoms become noticeable.

However many factors can increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, including:

  • having a family history od osteoarthritis
  • being overweight
  • being physically inactive
  • suffering a previous joint injury (such as dislocation or fracture)
  • overusing your joints, such as from too much kneeling, squatting, climbing and heavy lifting
  • increasing age.

Who is typically affected?

Osteoarthritis becomes increasingly common with age, with 75 per cent of those affected being 55 years or over. It is also more prevalent in women than men, especially in the older age group.

How is osteoarthritis treated?

While there is presently no cure for osteoarthritis, there are ways to manage your pain and look after joint health to maintain movement and independence. Here are some things you can do to manage your osteoarthritis symptoms.


Exercise is an important part of osteoarthritis management. Regular exercise reduces joint stiffness and strengthens muscles that support the joints. Exercise also helps you to look after your body weight, which is also important for protecting joints. Everyone's fitness level and limitations will be different. So for suitable and safe exercises, ask your doctor or physiotherapist to develop a program for you.

Eat a healthy diet

There is no specific diet or food that reduces osteoarthritis symptoms. A healthy, balanced diet is best for weight control to reduce stress on your joints.

A healthy diet includes a wide variety of nutritious foods from all five food groups, and has minimal processed foods. You may wish to see a dietitian to get tailored advice.

Be at a healthy body weight

Extra body weight increases the stress on many joints, especially your knees, hips and lower back (spine). In osteoarthritis, this can cause pain and further wearing down of the cartilage. If you are carrying extra weight, losing it will decrease the stress on your joints and protect them. It will also ease any pain and make it easier to move.

Educate yourself

Educating yourself on how you can best manage your osteoarthritis is called ‘self-management’. Self-management is very encouraging because it helps you to control your symptoms and be more independent. Arthritis Australia in each state and territory regularly runs self-management courses.

Use heat/cold therapies safely

Applying heat or cold to affected joints can help to soothe symptoms, but it must be done safely. Cold (such as ice packs) is usually soothing for hot and swollen joints, especially during flare-ups in the joint. Heat (such as a heat pack, hot water bottle or a warm bath) can be helpful to reduce pain and stiffness.

Ask your doctor or physiotherapist to advise on whether heat or cold is best for you, and how to apply it safely.

Take medicines wisely

There are different types of medicines that help to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Some are taken orally, such as tablets and capsules, and some are applied topically, such as gels. Common non-prescription medicines recommended by health professionals for osteoarthritis pain are:

  • analgesics (pain relievers), such as paracetamol
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including topical and oral options such as diclofenac gel and ibuprofen tablets.

It is important to speak to you doctor or pharmacist, who can explain which medicines are right for you and how to best use them.

For support and self-management courses, call Arthritis Australia on 1800 011 041 or visit their website.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Happy cyclist
    22nd Aug 2016
    YLC -- do you ever actually read the responses to these articles by your members? You keep putting up these articles and many us of keep putting forward foods which have helped us to become pain free. Your statement "There is no specific diet or food that reduces osteoarthritis symptoms" is just wrong. Personally, I and many people I know have had huge relief by giving up dairy food which is horribly acidic. All forms of arthritis are inflamatory disease and dairy food is inflamation inducing -- except small amounts of yoghurt and butter. Last week others gave tips about tumeric and apple cider vinegar which have given them complete relief. There certainly are dietary ways to get significant pain relief and those of us who have found those ways keep sharing them with you and everyone else. The next step has to be made by the sufferer. People who say "I couldn't give up milk or cheese" just aren't suffering!
    22nd Aug 2016
    It stated
    However many factors can increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, including:

    having a family history od osteoarthritis
    being overweight
    being physically inactive
    suffering a previous joint injury (such as dislocation or fracture)
    overusing your joints, such as from too much kneeling, squatting, climbing and heavy lifting
    increasing age

    It also contradicts -- where it says -- being physically inactive THEN says ---
    overusing your joints, such as from too much kneeling, squatting, climbing and heavy lifting ?????
    22nd Aug 2016
    PlanB - agree the contradiction is clearly there, and it appears to be due to a lack of understanding in the medical field of the problem and causes.
    Also, the list of possible factors has ignored one - the effect of medications, in particular statins. I had perfect knees, but a few months after taking statins my knees started having pain (cartilage degeneration as well as pain in tendons / ligaments). Several doctors have denied this cause and effect connection - I seriously wonder how much they are influenced by drug companies.
    Ignoring the effect of foods is also a major assumption by so-called experts.
    Ted Wards
    22nd Aug 2016
    I highly recommend you read the Medical Medium book by Anthony William. He shows that there is not such thing as an auto immune response and doctors only say this because they have no idea what is actually going on. He also uses food as medicine and his new book out about the foods that address different issues is about to hit Australia. It sold out within three minutes of release in America. You can get the Medical Medium book now and he is also online at Facebook under Medical Medium. He also shows how little the medical world really knows.
    Robert Henry
    22nd Aug 2016
    Food can play a part in managing arthritis. Strawberries are not the best food to eat as they seem to aggravate the condition, whereas PINEAPPLE has wonderful benefits due to it being a rich source of BROMELAIN which reduces inflammation. All parts of the Pineapple need to be eaten, the flesh the juice and especially the CORE which contains the most BROMELAIN. It's the Core from which the tablets/capsules are made and Herbs Of Gold Bromelain is the best to buy as it contains the most Bromelain. Eat the fresh pineapple when in season and the tablets when not available. The difference in my knee condition has been outstanding and I now walk normally without pain. One slice in the morning and one at night is my regimen. I highly recommend you give it a try, it's very inexpensive, I've seen pineapple at $1.50 to $2.50 and it keeps a long while. I only have cows milk in my coffee, all my other milk is powdered, which has ALL the fat removed. If you find the pineapple works for you please respond on this site for the benefit of others.
    22nd Aug 2016
    My GP recommended that I take Curcumin for my osteoarthritis in my hands and feet and I have done now for about 18 months. I have next to no pain just not as flexible/dexterous. In regards to dairy - I am vegetarian so eat cheeses and yoghurt, drink heaps of milk, eat eggs - these are my mainstay protein foods....
    Along with my Curcumin tablets (Fusion brand), I take cod liver oil, turmeric mixed with some ginger and black pepper and coconut oil. Seems to work for me!!
    22nd Aug 2016
    I will be trying the pineapple too - thanks Robert Henry..
    22nd Aug 2016
    Osteo Arthritis can be brought under control, and there are many, many people who have done so and done it in a relatively short time by taking Arborvitae. If you Google the main ingredient in this supplement, French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, you will see so many clinical trials and studies on this ingredient, showing how it is beneficial on a wide range of conditions, from heart disease to arthritis, because it's primary function is to bring down inflammation and boost the immune system. The Arborvitae combination also contains Aloe Vera, Papain enzyme and honey.....it is an extremely powerful all natural supplement that is proving to do what it says.
    Happy cyclist
    22nd Aug 2016
    Gags, this stuff is expensive and you can get the same benefits just by modifications to your diet. Several people on this site have offered much less costly ways to reduce inflammation and reduce pain which they have found to be successful. You don't need to resort to these 'natural supplements' which cost a lot of money. Just modify your diet, cut out the inflammation-causing foods, it will take a bit of trial and adjustment but the end result is well worth it without the cost.
    22nd Aug 2016
    YLC is correct evidence-based research shows quite clearly there are no diets or specific foods that reduce the risk or the effects of OA. It would be unethical for it to recommend particular foods as being treatments of OA because large high quality studies show that this is not the case. Nonetheless, many people swear by some diets/foods/supplements/treatments. These things may work for some but they are not 'magic cures' are not 'evidence-based' and probably are little more than placebos.

    Plan B says the article contradicts itself about the pros and cons of exercise but it doesn't. Over-use of joints and overly strenuous exertion may make the OA worse especially if joints are already damaged. However gentler, regular exercise such as swimming and walking etc may bring relief especially if the exercises mean the person loses weight and gradually becomes used to exercise.
    22nd Aug 2016
    If wanting an effective method as used in hospitals in France you can try Phototherapy patches. These are easy for anyone to use, low in cost, extremely effective, can work in minutes - even seconds - to ease chronic pain, No drugs, No chemicals, No supplements and NO harmful side effects. Extensive clinical studies with doctors in several hospitals in Paris have found at least 94% success in easing Osteoarthritis. Food, diet and all the other things mention will help - and I do love Pineapple, thanks Robert Henry but the patches are the one method EVERYONE can use to gain a great quality of life.
    22nd Aug 2016
    Ok ROB where do you get these Phototherapy patches from and how expensive are they please
    22nd Aug 2016
    Dear Happy Cyclist, seems like you have not done the research. Changing food alone may have worked for you, which is great, but this may not work for many others. Every body responds differently. Do the research on French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, the benefits of which have been known for over 500 years, when it was used to treat scurvy, and you will understand why so many people are turning to Arborvitae. It works for many, and they obviously do not believe it to be expensive, as they insist on using it every day. It may not work for all, but it is working for many, and that is wonderful. Enjoy your day....
    22nd Aug 2016
    Dear missmarple,
    We retail the patches for $5 each and $100 for a packet of 30 and are much cheaper if purchased as packets of 30 through our website. Considering we have lost count of the knee operations we have had cancelled just in Australia where people have only used 2 or 4 of these patches, they are certainly worth considering for ANY pain or Inflammation issues particularly where as soon as the patches are easing pain they are also allowing to body to create accelerated repair. So would be an inexpensive blessing for anyone here suffering with Osteoarthritis. The patches do not just “Mask pain” like traditional drugs/treatments.

    The patches are now available in over 100 countries all have been accepted by their medical authorities and are extensively clinically studied to prove their effectiveness.

    As we cannot list our contact details here you may like to email Customer Support for the company in the US customerservice@lifewave.com ; let them know you are in Australia and they will find someone here for you to contact.

    We personally provide ongoing support, free of charge, anywhere in the world to ensure a satisfactory result with the patches so you will have no problems ensuring the best result. You may also be able to contact us in here with the “Message system” but not sure if that even works yet? YLC may be able to assist?
    Regards Rob
    23rd Aug 2016
    Sounds great Rob. Not snake oil, I hope.

    If the patches have remedial qualities as well as relief why aren't they supported by our health system in Australia and /or sold in pharmacies around the country?
    22nd Aug 2016
    Thank you Rob, the patches sound wonderful & your post was fantastic & thank you also to Gammer.
    23rd Aug 2016
    Hi Golfer, certainly not snake oil. While it is at the Medical Practitioners request that patches have been introduced into the medical system overseas, Australia does appear to lag behind with new technology that does not involve drugs, chemicals or is not easily understood at first? Then there is the cost saving; medical organisations can appear threatened when something effective is introduced that could allow a person to provide their own outstanding recovery or reverse many of our ageing issues.

    In France the patches have been authorised by the Government for payment by Insurance, to not only save the Government a fortune with shortened recovery times for injuries but to have people back in paid employment much quicker. Can you imagine the cost savings here for our Government with just avoiding many knee replacements and all the disasters that follow with these procedures?

    The patches can be sold in chemists and hopefully this will happen here some day? It is from the requirement that someone be available in the chemist establishment to explain the patches and how to use them that has held this distribution back at present. The patches are at least accepted by the TGA in Australia. Rob
    24th Aug 2016
    To Robert Henry. How do you eat the core of a pineapple?
    7th Jul 2017
    I had a painful knee and was limping around for months. Saw a specialist, Xray showed a split miniscus. He said he could operate in two days time. I said no, I am going on holiday, then he would be away when I returned. Then it was Christmas. We agreed mid January but by the time of the op. pain had gone and now 8 years later, it hasn't come back. No change in diet, I love yogurt, never take health foods. Just lucky.

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