What is osteoarthritis (OA)?
OA is a chronic (long-term)
disease of joints
OA is progressive (gets worse over time) and symptoms can flare up (suddenly gets worse) from time to time
OA occurs when the cartilage (shock-absorbing material) covering bones in the joints breaks down. However, this is not what causes OA pain
OA most often affects the knees
OA can also affect the hands, spine
Experts no longer consider OA a
disease of simply 'wear and tear'
Low-grade inflammation (your body’s response to injury) is part of the reason OA gets worse
Like in other parts of the body, inflammation is a cause of pain in OA
What does osteoarthritis (OA) feel like?
Persistent pain in joints when they are used
OA can cause joint stiffness that lasts less than 30 minutes in the mornings
OA can restrict joint movement
OA joints might 'pop' or crack when you move them
OA joints might feel like they could 'give way'
When OA pain persists, it can also affect your mood
Symptoms of OA can come in cycles (sometimes better, sometimes worse)
A doctor can examine your symptoms and determine if you have OA
Research is inconclusive on a link between weather and OA pain
Who is at risk of osteoarthritis (OA)?
1 in 11 Australians have OA, so it’s likely you or someone you know has it
More women (10 in 100) than men (6 in 100) have OA
OA is more common the older you get:
1 in 5 people over the age of 45
1 in 3 people over the age of 75
If your family has a history of OA, it may increase your risk
Being overweight increases your risk of OA – even a 5kg reduction in weight makes a difference to your knees
Had a knee injury? This is a risk factor for OA
If your work involves repetitive joint movements, it may increase your risk of OA
How to manage OA?
There is no cure for OA yet, but many ways to manage pain and maintain function
If pain stops you from doing activities you enjoy, speak to your healthcare professional about ways to break the cycle of pain
Rest and avoiding activities can make OA symptoms worse
Exercise and weight management are the two important ways to manage OA pain
Keeping pain manageable is an important step to staying active
Ask your health professional on what type of OA pain medication is suitable for you or how well your current medication is working.
Experts recommend short-term use of anti-inflammatories in some people
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if anti-inflammatory medications are suitable for you to take
Anti-inflammatory medications, like Nurofen, may help manage OA pain during times of symptom flare up, by relieving inflammation, a source of OA pain
Tips for living well with OA
Make sure your OA pain is under control, check in with a healthcare professional regularly
Evidence shows exercise is important; consider land-based exercise like walking, Tai Chi, stationary cycling or Hatha yoga
Keep your moods in mind – if you’re feeling low or find it hard to get motivated because of OA pain, talk to your healthcare professional
Try heat packs or hot water bottles to ease pain
Consider a cane or walker if it means you’re more likely to keep active
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) devices (nerve stimulators) are still an option that experts recommend as worth a try