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Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting Australians. It can appear at any age, but tends to occur more commonly in women and in people aged over 40 years or those who have had severe joint injuries. It is a condition that affects the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and muscles.

Osteoarthritis may include:

  • Inflammation of the tissue around a joint
  • Damage to joint cartilage – the protective cushion on the ends of your bones which allows a joint to move smoothly
  • Bony spurs growing around the edge of a joint
  • The deterioration of ligaments (the tough bands that hold the joint together) and tendons (cords that attach muscles to bones).

OA tends to come on slowly, over months or even years. The joint pain or stiffness is usually worst with activity initially – but can be more constant in later disease. These symptoms may affect your ability to do normal daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and opening jars.

The symptoms of OA can vary from person to person and depend on which joints are affected. Many people have OA without noticing any symptoms. For those people who do experience symptoms, the most common sites are the fingers and the joints that support the weight of your body — spine, hips and knees.

Research shows there are some things that may put you at more risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA) in certain joints:

  • Knees: being overweight; having a previous knee injury; jobs involving kneeling, climbing and squatting.
  • Hips: being overweight; having a previous hip injury; jobs involving lifting heavy loads (including farming); having a history of OA in the family.
  • Hands: having a history of OA in the family; occupation; injury, being overweight.

Whatever the cause, the main problem with OA is the pain, stiffness and loss of mobility that comes with the disease. This can stop you from doing the things you need to do or want to do.