What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage tissue protecting the end of a bone breaks down. Any joint can develop osteoarthritis, which is most common in the hands, knees, and hips. Joint pain from osteoarthritis may be mild and annoying, or severe and debilitating.

What signs are associated with osteoarthritis?

While the underlying causes of osteoarthritis are still being investigated, the signs of osteoarthritis are fairly well recognized.

  • Damaged, thinned, or missing cartilage
  • Bone spurs, bone cysts, bone marrow lesions, or hardened bone tissue
  • Inflammation of the synovial membrane

What are common symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Referred pain. While pain is usually felt in the affected joint, it is possible for the pain to be referred to other areas of the body.
  • Joint stiffness. Stiffness may be most noticeable first thing in the morning or after a prolonged period of inactivity.
  • Loss of range of motion. The range of motion may be limited or lost because of bone spurs or other tissue changes.
  • Swelling. The joint may swell due to buildup of excess fluid. If the swelling is moderate to severe, the joint may feel warm.
  • Crepitus. Any grinding, grating, creaking, cracking, crunching, or popping that occurs when moving a joint is called crepitus.
  • Bone spurs. Friction and pressure between a joint’s bones can lead to bone degeneration and the growth of bone spurs.
  • Loss of function. The joint may occasionally lock up or be unable to handle stress or strain.
  • Joint deformity. Bone spurs or other changes in the joint may lead to a noticeable physical deformity.

What are the common ways to treat osteoarthritis?

Nonsurgical Treatments

A doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following nonsurgical or self-care options:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Cold or Warm Compress
  • Steroid Injections
  • Medication
  • Periodic Rest

Surgical Treatment

  • When joint damage causes moderate to severe pain and restricts mobility, surgery may be recommended.
  • Joint Replacement (Arthroplasty)

This information is not intended or implied as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images or other information provided is intended for general information purposes only. Always consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment.