See how well you understand osteoarthritis and how it’s treated. Below are 5 statements regarding who gets osteoarthritis, possible signs of the condition, and potential treatments.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that commonly affects load-bearing joints, such as the knees, and sometimes affects other joints, such as the fingers. Read: What Is Osteoarthritis?

True or false? The facts about osteoarthritis

1. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.

Answer: True
It’s estimated that 27 million Americans older than 25 have osteoarthritis 1 Lawrence RC, Felson DT, Helmick CG, et al. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States. Part II. Arthritis Rheum. 2008;58(1):26–35. doi:10.1002/art.23176 , which makes it by far the most common type of arthritis. In fact, despite there being dozens of kinds of arthritis, osteoarthritis is often referred to as simply “arthritis.” The joint most often affected by osteoarthritis is the knee.

See Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Signs


2. Without a doubt, we know who will develop osteoarthritis.

Answer: False
The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. There are several known risk factors that raise the chances for developing the condition. These include:

  • Being older than age 50
  • Having a close relative with a history of osteoarthritis
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a former injury in the affected joint

Having risk factors does not guarantee that a person will eventually develop symptomatic osteoarthritis.

See Osteoarthritis Causes

3. Grinding or cracking in a joint is a potential sign of osteoarthritis.

Answer: True
While it’s perfectly normal for a joint to pop or crack occasionally, one that does it consistently may be a sign of osteoarthritis—especially if the popping or cracking is accompanied by pain. Other potential symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Joint pain that gets worse with activity
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for a while
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Weakness or instability in the joint

Grinding, creaking, cracking, grating, crunching, or popping that occurs when moving a joint is called crepitus.

See What Is Crepitus?

4. Cortisone (steroid) injections are the best possible treatment for osteoarthritis.

Answer: False
Cortisone injections can be a good way to temporarily relieve pain, which can allow you to start physical therapy or an exercise routine to strengthen an affected joint. But an injection will not heal the joint damage itself—in fact, it can make damage worse by degrading soft tissues if they are administered too frequently.

See Cortisone Injections (Steroid Injections)

In addition, cortisone injections aren’t effective for everyone, and they can cause side effects such as cortisone flares or high blood pressure. They can also raise blood sugar levels, adding extra concerns for people with diabetes.

See Cortisone Injection Risks and Side Effects

Cortisone shots can be a great tool for temporary pain relief, but they should be used in conjunction with a larger treatment plan.

See What to Know Before Getting a Cortisone Injection


5. One of the best treatments for knee osteoarthritis is losing excess weight.

Answer: True
Research shows people who are overweight or obese can reduce their knee pain by losing excess weight. 2 Newberry SJ, FitzGerald J, SooHoo NF, Booth M, Marks J, Motala A, Apaydin E, Chen C, Raaen L, Shanman R, Shekelle PG. Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee: An Update Review [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2017 May. Available From PubMed PMID: 28825779. Why? It may be a matter of mechanics. When a foot hits the ground during walking, the knee experiences 3 lb of pressure for every 1 lb of bodyweight. 3 D’Lima DD, Fregly BJ, Patil S, Steklov N, Colwell CW. Knee joint forces: prediction, measurement, and significance. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part H, Journal of Engineering in Medicine. 2012;226(2):95-102. , 4 Messier SP, Gutekunst DJ, Davis C, DeVita P. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Jul;52(7):2026-32. PubMed PMID: 15986358 That means that losing 10 lb can take about 30 lb of pressure off a damaged, arthritic knee with each step.

Losing weight can also decrease inflammation in the body, which may lead to a reduction in joint pain.

See How Effective is Weight Loss for Treating Knee Arthritis Pain?

Losing weight even has benefits for people who already have knee replacements scheduled. One large study reported that people who were obese and lost 10 pounds have better surgical outcomes—even if they were still considered obese after their weight loss. 5 Keeney BJ, Austin DC, Jevsevar DS. Preoperative Weight Loss for Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Total Knee Arthroplasty. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2019 Aug 21; 101 (16): 1440. DOI 10.2106/JBJS.18.01136

Learn more:

Osteoarthritis Treatment

The Benefits of Losing Weight Before Knee Replacement

Dr. Emmanuel Konstantakos is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, arthroscopic surgery, and general orthopedics. Dr. Konstantakos has authored numerous research articles published in academic journals.