Osteoarthritis Education

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common joint disorder that occurs due to natural bodily aging and wear and tear on a joint. It is characterized by the breakdown and loss of a joint’s cartilage, bony overgrowth and alterations in the ligaments, menisci and muscles around the joint.


  • Nearly 27 million U.S. adults age 25 and older have OA, a number expected to increase with longer life expectancies, the obesity epidemic and the approaching wave of 78.2 million baby boomers reaching retirement age
  • Supporting this prediction, nearly one in two people may develop symptomatic knee OA by age 85 and half of all adults will develop symptomatic OA of the knee at some point in their lives
  • By 2030, a projected 67 million people will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • Two of every three obese adults are at risk of developing OA
  • Before age 45, more men than women have osteoarthritis; after age 45, it is more common in women

For more information, visit this National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases webpage.


Osteoarthritis can remain undetected until a significant portion of joint cartilage has worn away. Signs to look for include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain, tenderness, stiffness and locking
  • Joint swelling (bones around the joints may feel larger than normal)
  • Ligaments and muscles around a joint become weaker and stiffer
  • A cracking or grating sound when a joint is moved
  • Limited range of joint motion

For more information, visit this MedlinePlus webpage.


The exact cause of OA is not yet known but causal factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Natural aging and wear and tear
  • Bleeding disorders that cause bleeding in the joint, such as hemophilia
  • Disorders that block the blood supply near a joint and lead to avascular necrosis
  • Other types of arthritis, such as chronic gout, pseudogout or rheumatoid arthritis
  • OA can develop within 10 years of a major joint injury. For example, a teenager who tears their ACL at age 15 could begin to develop OA as early as age 25 or 30

For more information, visit this MedlinePlus webpage.

Risk Factors

Certain factors that increase the risk of developing OA include, but are not limited to:

  • Heredity
  • Being overweight
  • Joint injury
  • Repeated overuse of certain joints
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Nerve Injury
  • Aging

Potential Complications

Other complications may arise from osteoarthritis. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain that causes stiffness and loss of movement ability
  • Muscle spasms and contractions in affected tendons
  • Fluid accumulation in the joint
  • Crackling noises in the joint
  • Hard bony enlargements, nodes, or bunions form around the joint

Treatment Options

For more information, visit this DonJoy webpage, which includes information on a wide range of conservative care treatment options as well as tips on how to prepare for a doctor’s visit.

In The News

DonJoy/Wakefield Survey Overview

On behalf of DJO, LLC, a subsidiary of DJO Global, Inc., Wakefield Research conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans over the age of 40 that uncovered Americans’ knowledge about and perceptions of osteoarthritis, knee pain and various treatment options. This webpage highlights some of the key survey findings.

Knee Pain in America

According to the survey, nearly three out of four (73%) Americans over the age of 40 have experienced knee pain in the last year. Surprisingly, nearly eight out of ten Americans who don’t experience knee pain wrongly assume that they will never experience it. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, one in two people may develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis during their lives.

More than half of survey respondents (51%) with knee pain reported that it has caused them to miss out on an activity or an event in the last 12 months. In addition, respondents who do experience knee pain ranked the following ways that it affects their lives:

  • Prevents me from doing physical activities (37%)
  • Makes common household chores more difficult (35%)
  • Limits mobility (31%)
  • Makes me depressed (16%)
  • Leave the house less (12%)
  • Makes working outside the home difficult (10%)

What Would You Sacrifice to End Knee Pain

The survey revealed that Americans are willing to make a number of interesting sacrifices to get rid of knee pain.

Respondents with knee pain reported that they would give up the following for a month to never have knee pain again:

  • Dessert (43%)
  • Coffee (36%)
  • Sex (30%)
  • Cell phone (29%)
  • TV (22%)
  • Driving (18%)
  • The Internet (13%)

Respondents also indicated that they would be willing to pay an average of $3,068 to live knee pain free for the rest of their lives. Nearly one in three (30%) would be willing to pay between $1,001 and $5,000 to live knee pain free, and 18% would be willing to pay between $5,001 and $10,000.

Treatment of Knee Pain

It is very critical to identify and begin to treat osteoarthritis early, as it is a progressive, degenerative disease that will worsen over time.

The survey found that 58% of Americans over 40 have ignored knee pain because they didn’t think that it was a big deal. Among Americans who have experienced knee pain in the past 12 months:

  • 41% aren’t doing anything to manage their knee pain
  • 36% are taking over-the-counter pain medicine
  • 17% are regularly taking prescription medicine
  • 14% are using cold compression therapy
  • 12% are using a knee brace, 6% are using lateral-wedge insoles
  • 6% are regularly seeing a physical therapist

Important Factors When Selecting a Knee Brace

When asked if they were diagnosed with osteoarthritis and had to wear a knee brace, Americans over age 40 ranked the following factors as being most important when selecting a brace:

  • Maximum comfort (32%)
  • Decreased pain (25%)
  • Light-weight (12%)
  • Increased stability (12%)
  • Greater range of motion (11%)
  • Small or slender design (6%)

Osteoarthritis Myths Versus Facts

The survey also revealed that the majority (94%) of Americans age 40 and older do not know all the facts about osteoarthritis:

  • 68% of Americans do not know that the joint disorder is the leading cause of chronic disability
  • 66% incorrectly believe there is a cure for the joint disorder
  • 40% think that the joint disorder affects people of all ages equally, while the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis actually increases with age

About the Survey

The DonJoy/Wakefield survey was conducted online with 1,001 nationally representative American adults ages 40 and above between May 11, 2012 and May 17, 2012. The survey polled respondents on their knowledge and perceptions of osteoarthritis, knee pain and treatment options. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.