What is osteoarthritis? Do I have it?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, with millions of people around the world affected by this condition.

Osteoarthritis can cause joint pain and stiffness, leading to discomfort with certain movements.

It is common for people to live with joint pain or other joint symptoms without realising they may have arthritis.

But anyone can be affected by arthritis, regardless of their age.

So, don't ignore your joint pain – the benefit of early action is that early relief may also be possible.

If you believe you may be affected by osteoarthritis, keep reading as we jump into the signs and symptoms, how to get diagnosed, and what you can do to manage your comfort.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis primarily affects the cartilage, the protective tissue that covers the end of your bones where they meet (forming a joint).

Those with osteoarthritis experience the cartilage slowly wearing away and experiencing uncomfortable bone-on-bone contact.

This contact causes stiffness, swelling and general pain in the area.

Osteoarthritis can develop in any joint in the body.

Some common forms of osteoarthritis include hand osteoarthritis, knee osteoarthritis, hip osteoarthritis and osteoarthritis affecting the hands, feet or lower back.

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

To diagnose osteoarthritis, you will need to book in with your GP for a physical examination.

Your GP will likely ask for a review of your symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and request X-rays and lab tests.

If you find out you have osteoarthritis and want further help working with your condition, it will be best to see a rheumatologist, an arthritis specialist.

If you are suffering from undiagnosed pain, we recommend booking in with a doctor to see if you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or another condition.

What are the treatment options for osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast cure for osteoarthritis symptoms.

Usually, doctors will choose to treat osteoarthritis with a number of therapies, helping to lower pain and risk factors associated with osteoarthritis.

Some of the common treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy – physical therapy can help with pain relief caused by joint damage. By engaging in muscle-building exercises, some patients experience relief.
  • Increasing physical activity – by regularly engaging in physical activity, you can help lower osteoarthritis pain by keeping your joint flexibility, improving muscle strength and balance, reducing inflammation, helping you with weight loss and releasing endorphins, the body's natural pain relief. Physical activity can be particularly beneficial for your weight-bearing joints, benefiting knee osteoarthritis, for example.
  • Weight loss – by maintaining a healthy weight, you can help to minimise the stress on your joints and joint cartilage. Losing weight can also help to lower inflammation which can trigger osteoarthritis symptoms. If you are looking for exercises to lose weight, simply walking is a common exercise prescribed for weight loss and minimising pain. However, other low-impact exercises include cycling, swimming, water aerobics, or bodyweight exercises.
  • Medications – if you are having trouble managing the pain of osteoarthritis, it is possible to receive painkillers or anti-inflammation medicines that may help. It is also possible to have certain injections, such as corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid injections; however, it is best to speak with a doctor to see if this is the best option for you.
  • Surgery – it may be possible to undergo surgery to help with your osteoarthritis. If this is a path you want to go down, it will be best to speak with your doctor to see if your symptoms indicate a potentially successful surgery result.
  • Supportive devices – if you are having trouble with mobility, it may be beneficial to employ the help of a supporting device such as crutches or a cane.

Are you struggling with osteoarthritis in the workplace?

It doesn't have to be the case if you are having a difficult time with osteoarthritis in the workplace.

You could be eligible to receive help to make your workplace a more supportive environment or to find a new position where you can thrive in the workplace.

Osteoarthritis is a supported condition under APM's Disability Employment Services.

APM offers Disability Employment Services, a government-funded program that helps people with illnesses, injuries, and disabilities find and keep jobs.

The Australian Government funds this program, so you don't have to worry about a thing, participation is free.

We can help you to find exciting new job opportunities, plan your future and career and prepare for your job search.

Working doesn’t have to be a struggle, in a previous blog, Top 3 benefits of work for people with osteoarthritis, we have touched on the benefits of continuing to work, especially when finding a workplace that accommodates your needs.

Get in touch

If you want to take the next step in your career and health and find an inclusive workplace that can support your individual needs, get in touch with APM, and we can help you.

We deliver services from more than 500 locations Australia-wide, so you are bound to have help close to your home. Call us on 1800 276 276 to learn more about how we can help you.