Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones wears away, causing chronic pain. There is no cure, but we offer many proven osteoarthritis treatments to help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and get you back to the activities you love.

Happy mature couple on a walk outsideHappy mature couple on a walk outside

Osteoarthritis: causes, risk factors and symptoms

People develop osteoarthritis over many years as the articular cartilage covering the ends of bones in the joints gradually wears away. Factors that increase the risk include:

  • Age. Typically affects middle-aged and older people.
  • Family history.
  • Obesity. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects weight-bearing joints, so losing weight may help decrease your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
  • Previous injury to the affected joint.

Osteoarthritis symptoms develop slowly and typically worsen over time. Early signs of osteoarthritis include:

  • Bone spurs. Extra bits of bone that can form around the affected joint.
  • Grating sensation. Felt when you use the affected joint, along with possible popping or crackling.
  • Loss of flexibility. You can’t move your joint through a full range of motion.
  • Pain and tenderness. During or after movement, and when you apply pressure to the affected joint.
  • Stiffness. Most noticeable upon awakening or after being inactive.
  • Swelling. Caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint.

These symptoms may get worse over time and become disabling without treatment. Talk to your UCHealth provider now about any symptoms that you are experiencing.

Treatments for osteoarthritis

Nonsurgical options

Your UCHealth orthopedic provider will work with you on the best treatment plan for your case, which may start with nonsurgical steps to help maintain joint mobility, improve strength and relieve pain, such as:

  • Diet. You should avoid foods that can contribute to inflammation, like sugar, salt, fried food, white flour and dairy. Some diet supplements can help, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.
  • Injections
    • Corticosteroids are injected directly into the joint to provide short-term relief of pain and swelling.
    • Hyaluronic acid lubricates the joint and may offer pain relief.
  • Lifestyle changes. Losing weight may be necessary, and you might need modifications to your work and sports activities.
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce inflammation.
  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve flexibility, increase range of motion, reduce pain, and lubricate and strengthen the joint.

Surgical options

If these measures aren’t working, or your osteoarthritis has progressed significantly, your treatment plan might include a surgical procedure:

  • Arthroscopy. Your surgeon inserts a thin tube fitted with an HD camera and surgical tools, called an arthroscope, through small incisions to remove damaged lining, bone spurs, cysts or loose fragments.
  • Joint arthroplasty or joint replacement. Your surgeon replaces the damaged part of your joint with an artificial joint, called a prosthesis, made of metal and plastic components.
  • Osteotomy. Your surgeon realigns the long bones of the arm or leg in order to take pressure off of the joint.

You can live better with osteoarthritis

You have many treatment options available to you to reduce your pain and stiffness and regain range of motion so you can still enjoy the activities you love.

Our patients inspire us every day with their stories of overcoming osteoarthritis. Now we’re ready to help you.

Senior man in weight training session


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Osteoarthritis (OA) (https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm)

Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis (https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/osteoarthritis)

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Osteoarthritis (https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoarthritis)

MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Osteoarthritis (https://medlineplus.gov/osteoarthritis.html)