Self-management pivotal in osteoarthritis

Practitioner. 2014 Apr;258(1770):25-8, 3.


Osteoarthritis is not caused by ageing per se, although prevalence does increase with age, and does not necessarily deteriorate over time. However, with the ageing population the incidence and prevalence of osteoarthritis will continue to rise. Osteoarthritis remains a clinical diagnosis and importantly radiographic changes and joint symptoms may be poorly correlated. The most commonly affected peripheral joints are the knees, hips and small joints of the hand especially the distal interphalangeal joints. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis should be reached clinically, without the need for investigations, in those older than 45 years, with mechanical joint pain, and/or with morning joint-related stiffness lasting less than 30 minutes. However, in unclear situations, blood tests and imaging can be very helpful to exclude other conditions such as gout, pseudogout, post-traumatic pain, inflammatory or septic arthritis. All patients with clinical osteoarthritis should be advised about activity and exercise irrespective of age, comorbidity, pain severity or disability. An effective exercise routine may include local muscle strengthening and general aerobic fitness and referral to physiotherapy should be considered. A rheumatological opinion should be sought if there is doubt regarding the diagnosis or symptoms persist despite treatment. NICE recommends yearly follow-up forall osteoarthritis patients who suffer from troublesome joint pain, have more than one symptomatic joint, more than one comorbidity and/or those patients taking regular medication for the condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Care*