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What is it?

  • Osteoarthritis (ah-stee-o-arth-ri-tis) is also called arthritis. Another name for it is degenerative (d-jen-er-uh-tiv) joint disease. There is usually cartilage (kar-tih-lij) covering the bone ends in each joint. This cartilage cushions the joint when it moves. In arthritis, this cartilage slowly wears away. In some cases, a bone "spur" (a pointed growth) may grow in the joint. The bone spur causes inflammation (in-fluh-ma-shun) or pain, swelling, and redness.
  • Arthritis is usually more painful in the joints that bear weight, such as the feet, knee, hip, and spine (back and neck). But it is also painful in the fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Many people get arthritis as they age. If you are over 50 years old, you have a greater chance of getting arthritis. Arthritis is a life-long condition.


The exact cause of osteoarthritis is not known. If you have had one or more of the following problems, you are more likely to get arthritis.

  • A bone or joint injury sometime in the past.
  • Diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Overuse of your joints at work or during sports.
  • Overweight.

Signs and Symptoms:

In the early stages of arthritis you may not have any symptoms. With time you will slowly begin to have deep aching joint pain. This pain is often worse after exercise or weight bearing, such as walking. The pain may lessen with rest. Cold and damp weather may make your aching worse. You may feel swelling, stiffness, and have less joint motion. When you move your joints, you may hear a cracking sound. There is usually no fever, redness, or heat in your joints.

Wellness Recommendations:

Exercise may keep osteoarthritis from getting worse as it strengthens the muscles that protect the joints. Good exercises are cycling and water exercises.

Medical Care:

X-rays of your joints will be done. Caregivers will help you to decrease your joint paint and improve your strength.

  • You may be given over-the-counter medicine to decrease pain and inflammation, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Sometimes steroids shots are used for a short time to decrease joint inflammation.
  • You may need to use a cane, crutches, walker, or a splint. These can help decrease stress and strain on the affected joint. Some exercises and heat may help decrease stiffness and strengthen the weak muscles around the joint. Surgery may be needed to remove the damaged joint cartilage or replace or fuse the joint.

Dietary Measures:

  • Some people feel their osteoarthritis symptoms are worse after eating certain foods. You may want to keep a food diary to see if a food triggers joint symptoms.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.



      Complementary Therapies:

      • Acupuncture is useful for osteoarthritis pain.
      • Low level laser therapy may help osteoarthritis.
      • Magnetic field therapy may help osteoarthritis.

      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat osteoarthritis.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have chills, fever, or redness and tenderness of the affected joint.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.


      • You have trouble breathing all of a sudden. This could be a sign that you have a blood clot in your lung. It could also mean that you are allergic to a medicine you are taking.

      Care Agreement:

      You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


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      Last Updated: 12/4/2015

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