Learn more about what Osteoarthritis is and the different osteoarthritis pain treatment options available

Jenn Morris Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Australia, with studies reporting the condition affects about 1 in 10 women and 1 in 16 men. Osteoarthritis can develop at any age; however, it is more common in people aged over 40. It is a long-term condition where joints in the body become inflamed and damaged, causing pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced movement.

Osteoarthritis 1
Source: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pain-and-pain-management-adults#types-of-pain

Symptoms of osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but mostly affects the knees, hips, finger joints and big toe, with symptoms and severity varying from person to person. The most common osteoarthritis symptoms include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness.
  • Swelling is caused by inflammation around the joint.
  • Tenderness in joints when applying pressure.
  • Loss of flexibility.
  • A grating sensation when using the joint.
  • Cracking or popping sound when using the joint.
  • Bone spurs that feel like hard lumps forming around the affected joint.

Traditional osteoarthritis pain relief:

If you are concerned about osteoarthritis, you should see your health care professional who can suggest ways to manage your condition and refer you to a specialist if needed. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, most people’s symptoms can be managed with effective osteoarthritis pain relief treatments. Below are some of the traditional osteoarthritis pain treatment options:

  • Medication for osteoarthritis joint pain.
  • Creams and ointments.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic medications (DMARDs).
  • Biologics and biosimilar medicines (bDMARDs).
  • Pain management techniques, such as meditation.

In addition to osteoarthritis pain relief medication, lifestyle changes that can help manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis include regular exercise to keep joints and muscles healthy and flexible as well as eating a well-balanced diet.

Medicinal Cannabis and Osteoarthritis

If you’ve exhausted other osteoarthritis pain treatment options and haven’t experienced any relief or improvement, it might be worth chatting to your doctor to see whether medicinal cannabis could be suitable for you.  

Osteoarthritis FAQs

What is the most common cause of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when the bone cartilage in joints deteriorates. Cartilage is the tissue that enables frictionless movement of the joints and when it wears down, the bone begins to rub on bone, which causes inflammation and pain. Known as wear and tear disease, osteoarthritis causes changes to the bone and deteriorates the connective tissues holding the joint together and attaching the muscle to the bone.
There is no single specific cause of osteoarthritis, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease, including:
·         Older age.
·         Gender – women are more at risk of developing osteoarthritis.
·         Being overweight – increased weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints like knees and hips.
·         A previous injury such as a dislocation or fracture of a joint.
·         Repetitive stress on a joint.
·         Bone deformities.
·         Certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes and hemochromatosis (when the body has too much iron).
·         A family history of osteoarthritis.s.

What does osteoarthritis feel like?

Symptoms of osteoarthritis and the severity of the pain can vary between individuals, though there are some common early symptoms to be aware of. Joint pain is the most common symptom of osteoarthritis and the pain is generally localised, being felt only in and around the affected joint. It is more prominent when using the affected joint and feels better with rest. Joints may feel achy and tender and there may be mild swelling after physical activity. Stiffness is often felt after inactivity and can usually be relieved by gently moving or stretching the affected area.
Other common symptoms of osteoarthritis include reduced range of motion which can compromise movement. If osteoarthritis is present in the hips, for example, it may be more difficult to bend over and can affect walking. Clicking and cracking sounds may be heard when moving the joints, which is the sound of the bones rubbing together without enough cartilage to cushion them. It is common for osteoarthritis to affect a joint on only one side of the body.

What are the complications of osteoarthritis?

As osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time, chronic joint pain and stiffness can become severe enough to make daily tasks difficult, though most people can continue to live healthy, active and enjoyable lives with effective osteoarthritis pain relief. In severe cases, complications that can arise include:
·         Deformity due to the swelling of the joint.
·         Reduced ability to exercise.
·         Trouble performing daily tasks.
·         Depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances due to the pain and disability of the condition.
Speaking with a doctor can provide you with help and support in finding the best osteoarthritis pain treatment options.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

If you are experiencing joint pain, it is important to seek advice from a health professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan. While there are no specific tests to diagnose osteoarthritis, your doctor can confirm if you have osteoarthritis based on your symptoms and a physical examination. Some signs your doctor will look for include:
·         Swelling around the joints.
·         Damage to joint cartilage.
·         Extra bone growing around the edge of the joint, known as ‘spurs’.
·         Weakness in ligaments and tendons.
X-rays may sometimes be used to confirm the diagnosis or to assist with planning interventions.

What is the best medication for osteoarthritis?

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many options available to help you manage the symptoms, allowing you to continue with daily activities. It is important that your condition is monitored by a health professional, who can create an osteoarthritis management plan for you. Speak with your health care professional about pain relief medication for osteoarthritis, including the benefits and potential risks. Osteoarthritis pain relief treatments are focused on improving symptoms, not changing the disease process itself. Some individuals may find alternative therapies such as medicinal cannabis to be effective for osteoarthritis pain relief.
In most cases, surgery for osteoarthritis is not required, however, it may be an option if you have tried all non-surgical treatment options without success. The most common osteoarthritis surgery is a total joint replacement.