Osteoarthritis Causes & Symptoms

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic (long-term) condition that affects the joints in your body. It occurs when cartilage—the shock-absorbing material that covers the ends of your bones—breaks down. This causes your bones to rub together, resulting in pain, stiffness, inflammation, and sometimes the growth of bony spurs in the joint.

Osteoarthritis affects over 2 million Australians and can affect people of all ages. However, it is more common in older people—affecting about 1 in 5 Australians over 45 years of age and 1 in 3 over 75 years. Osteoarthritis is more common in women (1 in 10) than in men (1 in 16).1

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, including your spine, but most commonly affects knees, hips, and hands.

There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are many ways that you can effectively manage your symptoms, relieve your pain, and maintain mobility.

Osteoarthritis signs and symptoms

Osteoarthritis symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on which body part is affected. They can often interfere with your normal day-to-day activities and affect your mood.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Joint pain

  • Joint stiffness

  • Joint swelling (inflammation)

  • A grinding or crunching sensation with joint movement (crepitus)

  • Loss of flexibility or restricted movement in a joint

  • Muscle weakness

Diagnosing osteoarthritis

If you have joint pain, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Before giving you a diagnosis, your doctor will review your symptoms, any risk factors and examine the affected joint.


Osteoarthritis causes

Osteoarthritis has often been described as ‘wear and tear’ on your joint, but it is now understood that it may occur as a result of many factors.

Factors that can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis include:

  • Age over 45 years

  • Being a woman

  • Family history of knee osteoarthritis (genetics)

  • Being overweight

  • Previous injury or damage to a joint

  • Repetitive movements on or overuse of a joint.


Managing osteoarthritis

Managing osteoarthritis depends on your symptoms and which joint is affected, and usually involves different combinations of exercise, pain medications, and lifestyle changes. Exercise and weight management are key for managing your pain, and managing your pain is important to help stay active.


Regular exercise that improves muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, and general fitness is recommended to help reduce symptoms, relieve pain, and improve mobility. Speak with your doctor or physiotherapist about the right types of exercise for your condition.

Lifestyle changes

Maintaining a healthy weight is important when you have osteoarthritis, as extra weight or fat can increase the pain and inflammation in your joints. Other lifestyle changes that may help you reduce your osteoarthritis symptoms include walking aids, braces or taping, tai chi or yoga, and cognitive behavioural therapy. Speak with your doctor or health professional about what lifestyle changes may be right for you.

Pain relief

Medications commonly used to relieve osteoarthritis pain include analgesics, which provide temporary pain relief, and oral and topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, which provide pain relief and reduce inflammation in your joints. With its active ingredient ibuprofen, Nurofen 400 Double Strength tablets can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain associated with knee osteoarthritis. Speak with your doctor about the appropriate medications for your osteoarthritis symptoms.