Improving joint pain and function in osteoarthritis

Practitioner. 2016 Dec;260(1799):17-20.


Osteoarthritis has become a major chronic pain condition. It affects more than 10% of adults and accounts for almost 10% of health service resources. The impact of osteoarthritis is amplified by underuse of effective muscle strengthening exercises and a focus on often less effective and poorly tolerated analgesic therapies. Although traditionally considered to be primarily a disease of cartilage, there is now ample evidence that typical clinical osteoarthritis involves multiple tissue pathologies. Increased BMI is associated with a higher incidence of knee osteoarthritis. Anatomical abnormalities such as valgus alignment or previous joint trauma including meniscectomy, anterior cruciate ligament rupture and fracture through the joint are also associated with increased incidence of osteoarthritis. Pain is the main presenting symptom. However, we still have a poor understanding of the causes of pain in osteoarthritis. In patients aged 45 or over the diagnosis should be made clinically without investigations if the patient has activity-related joint pain in addition to early morning joint stiffness lasting less than 30 minutes. Muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise have been shown to improve joint pain and function. Weight loss not only improves joint pain and function but has a myriad of other health benefits, reducing the incidence of lifestyle associated diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and mechanical stress on the joints.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthralgia / etiology
  • Arthralgia / therapy*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Care