All About Osteoarthritis

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
and hips

OA can also affect the hands, spine
and ankles

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

Life style

Medication

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