Treatment for osteoarthritis aims to relieve pain, reduce disability and provide support to help you live as active a life as possible.
What is good osteoarthritis care?
The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) has developed a set of standards for good osteoarthritis care.
These are designed to help people of all ages with osteoarthritis lead independent lives and to be as healthy as possible. They recommend everyone should have access to:
information, support and knowledge to improve bone and muscle health and enable them to manage their own condition
the right services that enable early diagnosis and treatment
ongoing and responsive treatment and support
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has also produced guidance for the management of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but treatment can ease your symptoms and prevent them from affecting your everyday life. The main treatments do not involve medication and consist of:
access to the right information (this website and the other organisations we link to are a good start)
exercise to improve your fitness and strengthen your muscles
weight loss, if you are overweight
If your osteoarthritis is mild or moderate, you may not need any other treatment. Your GP can give you advice about managing your symptoms by making changes to your lifestyle. These may be enough to keep the condition under control.
Osteoarthritis can be managed by improving your general health. Your doctor may recommend ways you can help yourself, such as taking regular exercise and losing weight.
Exercise is the most important treatment for people with osteoarthritis, whatever your age or level of fitness. Your physical activity should include a combination of exercises to strengthen your muscles and exercises to improve your general fitness.
If osteoarthritis causes you pain and stiffness, you may think exercise will make your symptoms worse. But usually, regular exercise that keeps you active and mobile and builds up muscle, thereby strengthening the joints, will improve symptoms. Exercise is also good for relieving stress, losing weight and improving your posture, all of which will ease symptoms.
Your GP, or possibly a physiotherapist, will discuss the benefits you can expect from your exercise programme and can give you an exercise plan to follow at home. It is important to follow this plan because there is a small risk that the wrong sort of exercise may damage your joints.
Being overweight or obese makes osteoarthritis worse. Extra weight puts more strain on damaged joints, which have a reduced ability to repair themselves. Joints in the lower limbs, which carry your weight, are under particular stress if you are overweight or obese.
If you are overweight, try to lose weight by doing more physical activity and eating a healthier diet. Discuss any new exercise plan with your GP or physiotherapist before you start. They can help plan a suitable exercise programme for you. Your GP and practice nurse can also advise about how to lose weight slowly and safely.