Navigation follows, skip to content? New England Baptist Hospital Logo Utility navigation follows, skip to content? Primary navigation follows, skip to content?

Health Library


What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Articular cartilage is an elastic tissue covering the bones that make up your joint. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage of the joint becomes worn, and extra bone may form. This can cause lasting damage and may lead to pain, swelling, and restricted motion. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it occurs most often in the knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers, and the base of the thumb and big toe.

Common Causes

There are many factors that may play a role in the progression of osteoarthritis, including age, obesity, injury or overuse, and genetics.


A physical examination and X-rays will help to determine the extent of the damage to the joint.


There are surgical and non-surgical treatment options available that focus on relieving symptoms and improving joint function.

To reduce joint pain, over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended. Prescription medications are also available; however, these medications will vary based on each individual. Cortisone injections may also be prescribed to relieve pain.

Conservative treatment options, such as physical therapy, may be suggested to strengthen weakened muscles around the joint. Splinting or use of assistive devices, such as walkers, crutches, or canes may also be used to relieve stress and strain on joints.

Orthopedic surgery can provide pain relief and restore lost joint function. Your doctor may suggest surgery if more conservative options do not work. Surgical options depend on the individual patient. Your doctor will discuss if a total joint replacement is appropriate to help relieve your joint pain and improve your quality of life.

Footer navigation follows, return to top?

We use cookies and other tools to enhance your experience on our website and to analyze our web traffic. For more information about these cookies and the data collected, please refer to our web privacy statement.