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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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Can bracing be used instead of surgery following an ACL injury?


For anyone interested in the sports or activities which help us to keep fit and healthy the potential for injury is always present. Injuries will very often involve the knee joint. This is because the knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in our body.

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The top 10 foods experts say can help manage osteoarthritis


New foods are also appearing all the time, and not all of these have been thoroughly tested for beneficial properties, so it is also quite possible to find a food that may help you personally. Whether you do or do not believe that specific foodstuffs can alleviate osteoarthritis, it certainly appears that a healthy balanced diet and the maintenance of a reasonable body weight can help those with arthritis. Arthritis is an inflammatory condition, so it makes sense to focus on those foods that can fight inflammation.

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What are the health benefits of spices?


There are many foods that can benefit your health, but we don’t often think of the herb and spice cupboard as holding anything particularly special. It turns out, however, that there are many excellent ingredients in spices that can not only benefit our health but also improve ailments and reduce symptoms of other health problems. Read on to discover more about the health benefits of spices. There are many spices that we can use in cooking and they all have their own special properties. From ginger to turmeric and paprika to cinnamon, every spice has its own distinct aroma, taste and health-giving properties.

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What are the top low impact sports for people with bad joints?


Bad joints can get in the way of achieving a good exercise routine, due to the pain and discomfort of weight bearing exercise. When we exercise by playing sports or running, there is a large amount of stress placed on the joints, especially the knees. This leads to pain and can actually cause long-term damage to the joints. However, there are a few excellent low impact sports which are ideal for people with bad joints. Read on to discover which exercises can provide a great workout for people experiencing problems with their joints.

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​5 most important questions to ask your doctor about OA


We all experience aches and pains from time to time. Normally this isn’t a problem. However, when pains become regular they become a cause of concern. Recurring pain or discomfort in the joints may be indications of the onset of osteoarthritis – a condition which, as we age, gradually damages the surfaces of the joints so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly.

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​What to expect following knee replacement surgery


There are broadly two different types of knee replacement surgery. These are known as partial (sometimes called unilateral) knee replacement, and total or full knee replacement. You may also hear knee replacement being referred to as arthroplasty. Your surgeon will decide which option is best for you depending upon the state of your knee. Partial knee replacement is less invasive and involves less downtime, so if this is a possibility for you, your surgeon will always prefer to choose this option. However, partial knee replacements run a greater risk of the need for revision surgery, so your surgeon will carefully weigh this risk against the short-term benefits.

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Treatments for Osteoarthtitis


It has been estimated that the number of people in the UK with osteoarthritis is around 8.75 million with almost half that figure suffering from knee OA. This means that a third of the population aged 45 and older have sought treatment for their condition.

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What are the long term effects of pharmaceuticals in managing osteoarthritis?


​Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects your joints. It is caused by everyday wear and tear rather than any specific immune condition, but it is still painful and can be debilitating. It is caused when the cartilage that covers and protects the ends of your bones, where they join, becomes roughened and thickened. The bone underneath the cartilage also thickens, as do the ligaments, the synovium (the inner layer of the joint capsule) and the capsule itself. Sometimes extra synovial fluid is produced, which causes the joint to swell.