Management of Osteoarthritis

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Rheumatologist, discusses Management of Osteoarthritis.

Rheumatologist, discusses Management of Osteoarthritis.

Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Kam Shojania, MD, FRCPC
Management of Osteoarthritis
Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Osteoarthritis occurs when the rubbery ends of the bone called cartilage wears away and the bones start to rub together.

That causes three things: pain, stiffness, and inflammation, so we have to manage those three things. So people come in with pain, inflammation, stiffness around a knee. And the management of that would include lifestyle measures, diet, and medications.

For lifestyle measures, the most important thing for osteoarthritis is exercise and balancing the muscles. For example, let's take the knee. We need to strengthen the muscles around the knee to support the knee because the joint is not functioning as well as it should.

So the quadriceps and the hamstring muscles both need to be balanced and strong in order to manage the pain of that knee, and that will help reduce pain and prevent flares of osteoarthritis. We need to help strengthen the knee, but also reduce the force across that weight-bearing joint.

One of the easiest things we can do is lose weight if we are overweight and it's a weight-bearing joint that's painful. So even five or ten pounds of weight loss significantly reduces the strain across a weight-bearing joint, and can improve pain of osteoarthritis as well as reduce the need for joint replacement in the future.

So medications can help improve function and pain with osteoarthritis. The medication can help people exercise. So there are different kinds of medication. There are simple analgesics, such as acetaminophin. Then, to reduce pain and inflammation one can take an anti-inflammatory but those have other potential side effects.

There can be injections into the knee of cortical steroids or treatments that will improve the shock-absorbing potential of the knee and improve the lubrication of the knee. Those are the most significant medical treatments for knee osteoarthritis.

A lot of people try complementary therapies for osteoarthritis, and while people individually may have some benefit there have yet to be good studies to support the use of complementary therapies in managing osteoarthritis of the knee.

Surgery can be recommended in people who have late stage osteoarthritis of a joint. The most common joints that are replaced are the hip and the knee. Other joints can be replaced as well, and people who get knee replacement or hip replacement surgery, the vast majority do extremely well.

However, that is usually the last thing we recommend. Lifestyle measures, exercise, weight loss, medications are the first treatments for osteoarthritis.

If you think you have osteoarthritis, please speak to your healthcare provider to get a diagnosis before going forward.

Presenter: Dr. Kam Shojania, Rheumatologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Rheumatologist

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Quiz: Do You Understand Osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body.


Osteoarthritis is most common in the joints of the knees, hips, hands, fingers, neck and spine, although it can affect any joint in the body.


Osteoarthritis symptoms can be worse when you first get up.


Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness and swelling in joints, especially when getting up in the morning. If your OA is severe, you may feel pain for the entire day, or lose your ability to use the joint. Pain and stiffness in the hands and loss of grip strength and dexterity are common, making it challenging to open jars or grip something tightly in the hands.


Losing weight won't help osteoarthritis as it doesn't effect weight-bearing joints.


Even five or ten pounds of weight loss significantly reduces the strain across a weight-bearing joint, and can improve pain and reduce the need for joint replacement in the future.


If you have osteoarthritis you will know, as the symptoms are too painful to ignore.


Many individuals will not have any osteoarthritis symptoms. Others will have quite severe symptoms.


Corticosteroid injections can be an effective osteoarthritis treatment.


OA medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, acetaminophen and pain medications such as opioids.

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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