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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (also known as arthrosis, osteoarthrosis or OA) is a degenerative disease, which causes the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones to wear down, causing pain, swelling and problems with mobility. This is a result of the protective fluid in your joint losing its shock-absorbing abilities, causing bones to rub against each other.

The condition is sometimes referred to as 'wear and tear' and causes the bones to thicken and stick out, a symptom know as spurs. OA will also cause the capsules and ligaments, bands that hold the joint together, to thicken along with extra fluid in the joint resulting in swelling. These symptoms are a result of the body attempting to repair the joint; something that can sometimes occur relatively pain free. In severe cases, the cartilage can become so thin that it doesn't cover the end of the bone leaving it exposed and consequently changing the shape of the joint due to the excessive wearing away of the bone and the presence of bony spurs.

Any joint in the body can be affected by OA but the most common damage is found in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers and toes.

For further information on the condition, take a look at the "What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee" guide from Arthritis Research UK which offers a comprehensive review of the condition and how the charity can help sufferers.

Who can be affected?

There is no direct cause of OA and almost anyone can get the condition, including children. However, you’re more likely to suffer OA if you fall under any of the following categories:

  • You are a women
  • You are 40 years old or older
  • Your parents have had OA
  • You are overweight
  • You have had a previous joint injury
  • You are in a physically demanding job
  • Your joints have been affected by another disease, for example, gout or rheumatoid arthritis

For more information on the conditions that can cause OA, click here.

What Is Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis Knee - OA Knee Pain What Is Osteoarthritis? - Osteoarthritis Knee

Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK. Other types of arthritis that cause pain and inflammation in the joints include:

To find out how the different types of arthritis can affect your joints, take a look at our Types of Arthritis page.

Common symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The most common symptoms of OA are pain and stiffness in the joint, with some people experiencing swelling, tenderness and a grating sound when using the damaged joint.

The severity of symptoms differs from person to person with some feeling mild discomfort that can come and go and others suffering continuous debilitating pain, which can make it difficult to go about their daily activities.

If you’re showing the symptoms of OA, you should make an appointment with your GP who can diagnose the condition and prescribe relevant treatment.

Read more here about the symptoms of OA.

What Is Osteoarthritis - Knee OA - OA Knee Pain Knee OA causes pain and stiffness in the affected knee joint

Diagnosing and treating Osteoarthritis

Your GP can usually diagnose OA based on your symptoms and a physical examination of your joints. However, your doctor may also ask for a blood test, X-ray or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. For more information on diagnosing OA, visit our ‘Diagnosis’ page.

Even though OA is a long-term, incurable condition, treatments can be prescribed to ease the symptoms, improve the condition and prevent it from getting worse. There are a number of treatment options available, including non-surgical solutions, such as exercising, bracing and medication, as well as surgical solutions, like arthroscopy, tibial osteotomy and full knee replacements.

To find out more about the different types of treatment available for OA, take a look at ‘What are my Options?'

What Is Osteoarthritis - Osteoarthritis Of The Knee - OA Knee Pain An x-ray or MRI can be used to help diagnose osteoarthritis of the knee

Useful Links

There are multiple studies available online relating to osteoarthritis.

Visit https://www.pubmed.de/gateway/nlm-pubmed/ and use the search term “knee osteoarthritis therapy” (with over 800 pages of results).

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How Does Age Affect People's Experiences Of OA?


​When we think about arthritis, there is a tendency to categorise it as an old person’s disease. We envision the little old lady struggling to make it across the road or the old man with a walking stick. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. There are thought to be around 10 million people living in the UK with the disease and these cover a range of ages from children right up to those over the age of 65.

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How Does The Body Clock Affect The Development Of OA


Various factors can affect our body clocks but this is usually a temporary situation. A series of late nights, shift patterns that change and long flights can produce temporary effects such as mood changes and sleep disruption. We commonly refer to this as jet lag and do not view it as a serious problem but it is now widely recognised that our biological clocks are also important to our general well-being and health.

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How Does Obesity Affect Your Risk Of OA Knee Pain


​Obesity has been known to be a serious health problem for many years, but the impact that being overweight can have on your knees is not always recognised. Seriously obese people are fourteen times more likely to develop osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee than people whose weight is within healthy parameters, so it follows that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of knee pain due to this disease.

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What Are The Differences Between OA And Other Types Of Arthritis?


​There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The most common include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), fibromyalgia and gout. Although there are many similarities between the different types of arthritis and the pain they cause, knowing which type you have can make the difference between successful treatment or further debilitation.

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Where Can I Turn to For Support For OA Knee Pain


Osteoarthritis causes increasing joint pain and stiffness in the knee. Tenderness and swelling are also likely to be present. This may be particularly the case immediately after you wake up, after overusing your knee, or when resting.

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How Can Tai Chi Help People With OA Knee Pain


​There is proof that the martial art tai chi can help with the symptoms and pain of knee osteoarthritis (OA). We look at the evidence below and explain how tai chi can improve the condition.

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The Effect Of Weather On OA Knee Pain


​Many of us are familiar with stories of people with injuries or joint conditions claiming to be able to predict the weather based upon their pain and stiffness. Whilst they are often met with polite nodding or even ridicule, there is evidence that there may be a genuine link between weather conditions and levels of pain. There is a growing body of research looking at the effect of weather on OA knee pain, but the results are far from conclusive.

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The Mental Health Impact Of OA Knee Pain


​Any injury to the knee can be particularly painful. This includes the mobility issues that often arise from osteoarthritis. As the knee is so important when standing or walking, damage to the joint can have a negative impact on your ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks. It is not, however, just the physical discomfort that can make life more difficult. As with any long-term injury, chronic pain in the knee can have a negative effect on mental health. For example, it can increase the likelihood of experiencing depression or anxiety.

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OA Knee Pain Treatments Of The Near Future


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, occurring when the cartilage cushioning the joints wears down. Most commonly found in people over 50 years old or following an injury or other stress on the joints, OA is most often seen in the knees and can cause serious pain and debilitation to those who develop it.

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Could OA Be Recategorised As More Than One Disease?


​Traditionally, osteoarthritis has been considered to be a single disease with the same cause and course of treatment. However, recent evidence has emerged which suggests that it is not a single disease and this may have implications when it comes to treatment options.