Osteoarthritis is a type of joint disease that involves the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage that cushions the joints. Cartilage is a firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints and serves as a shock absorber, allowing smooth joint movement. When cartilage is damaged or wears away, the bones can rub against each other, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. As shown on our Anatomy of Osteoarthritis Chart.

It is more common in older adults but can also occur in younger people, especially those who have had joint or overuse injuries. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment options may include pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, weight loss, and surgery in some cases.


What causes osteoarthritis?

This degenerative joint disease primarily affects the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones. While the exact cause of osteoarthritis is not fully understood, several factors contribute to its development, including:


As people age, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases. This is because the cartilage in joints wears down over time.


Genetic factors make some people more likely to develop osteoarthritis. This can include abnormalities in how cartilage is formed or problems with the structure of the joints.


Being overweight puts extra stress on the joints, which can lead to osteoarthritis.

Joint injuries

Injuries to the joints, such as fractures or ligament tears, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Repetitive stress

Certain occupations or activities involving repetitive motions can increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the affected joints.

Other medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

It is often a combination of these factors that leads to the development of osteoarthritis.


How to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are several things you can do to relieve its symptoms:


Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and cycling can help reduce joint pain and stiffness while improving joint flexibility and strength.

Lose weight

Extra weight puts extra strain on your joints, which can make osteoarthritis symptoms worse. Losing weight can help alleviate pressure on your joints and reduce symptoms.

Maintain a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help to reduce inflammation and support overall joint health.

Hot and cold therapy

Applying a warm compress or taking a warm bath can help relieve joint pain and stiffness, while applying a cold compress can help reduce inflammation.


Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce joint pain and inflammation. Topical creams and ointments can also provide relief.


Some supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, may help reduce joint pain and stiffness.

Assistive devices

Braces, splints, and orthotics can help support your joints and reduce pain while walking or standing.

It’s essential to consult with your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.


We, as experts in medical education supplies, have developed a huge range of osteoarthritis resources to support you with understanding and health promotion around this condition.

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