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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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​Occupational risk OA


There is a strong link between our work and our health. We all spend a lot of time in our jobs and so it is important to analyse the risks involved and understand how our job can affect our health. With osteoarthritis, there can be many risk factors to consider at work. It is vital to assess what factors increase the risk of developing OA and how OA can be managed at work.

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​Cloudy With A Chance Of Pain


Many people experiencing knee pain express concerns or complaints about certain weather condition causing painful episodes or an increase in usual chronic pain. As this is quite common, it was a surprise to find that there doesn’t currently exist any scientific data or research on the existence of a relationship between the weather and pain; that is until now.

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​5 things you're experiencing that may be a result of OA


Cartilage plays an incredibly important role in joints, being firm and flexible, but softer than bone. Cartilage covers bone surfaces where they intersect and move against each other, to allow smooth joint movement. However, like other parts of the body, cartilage can wear down over time and this can lead to degenerative arthritis, which is also known as osteoarthritis. This condition is one of the most common joint disorders in the Western world.

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Top 10 Lifestyle & Healthy Eating Tips for Before & After Surgery


Written for OA Knee Pain by Registered Dietician Nichola Ludlam-Raine. Nichola works as an NHS, freelance and private dietician and has appeared on BBC breakfast a number of times to provide her expert opinion. Here she tells us about the top 10 lifestyle and healthy eating tips for before and after surgery.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)


Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as chondromalacia patella or anterior knee pain, is a common injury amongst runners both experienced and beginner. It is an overuse injury that is difficult to determine, but could be a result of biomechanics or muscular faults. The condition is not limited to one knee and can be linked to other injuries.

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Patella Fracture


A broken kneecap is one of the less likely knee injuries but can be incredibly painful and debilitating to those that do suffer from one. They are usually caused by the result of a direct blow to the knee, which can happen by falling forward, in a car accident or while playing sports such as football and rugby.

Torn Cartilage Injury


A torn cartilage injury, also referred to as a meniscus tear injury, is one of the most common knee injuries amongst those aged over 65 and athletes who play contact sports, like football and rugby, or those that involve jumping, such as basketball.

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​What causes OA


Although the precise cause of osteoarthritis is not known, predisposing factors include injury to the joint, other conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis, congenital abnormalities, age, family history and obesity. Secondary osteoarthritis can occur if the condition is caused by another disease or condition.

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Osteochondritis Dissecans


Osteochondritis dissecans, or OCD, is a rare condition caused when a fragment of bone becomes loose in the joint. The condition’s cause differs depending on your age. For adults, OCD forms after the physis or epiphyseal plate has closed, while for young people, it can occur while still growing.

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Osgood-Schlatter Disease


Osgood-Schlatter disease, sometimes referred to as Osgood's or OSD, is a condition that causes the bones, cartilage and tendons at the top of the shinbone or tibia where the patellar tendon is attached to become inflamed. The syndrome is most commonly found amongst active young people aged 8 to 15 years old but has also been known to affect some adults too.