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Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than one in 10 Canadians. OA is the result of the body’s failed attempt to repair damaged cartilage. Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other. It also helps absorb the shock of movement.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

In OA, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away over time. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.

Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which causes more pain and damage. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.

Who is at risk for Osteoarthritis?

Some risk factors that might lead to OA include:

  • Being overweight
  • Getting older
  • Joint injury
  • Joints that are not properly formed
  • A genetic defect in joint cartilage
  • Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports

What are signs of Osteoarthritis?

The signs and symptoms of OA can happen anywhere. It occurs most often in weight bearing joins such as the hands, knees, spine and hips. The signs and symptoms can include:

  • Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time
  • Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
  • A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone

OA is diagnosed using combination of x-rays, physical examination and ruling out other types of arthritis.

How’s Osteoarthritis treated?

OA can be treated with therapy as well as drugs. The treatment plan can include:  Exercise, weight loss, rest and non-drug pain relief techniques to control pain.

Prescription and non prescription medications as well as natural health products and complementary and alternative therapies are also an option. Surgery is reserved for the most extreme cases.

Voltaren Emulgel (Diclofenac), Tylenol (Acetominophen), Advil (Ibuprofen), Aleeve (Naproxen) and their generic alternatives are common effective non-prescription medications. There is limited efficacy evidence for the use of natural health products such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

Prescription medications such as high dose NSAIDS, opioids and injectables are reserved for more severe cases.

Patients should talk to their health care professional to determine the best course of treatment including the best dose for any medication that they may take.


1.     Osteoarthritis. Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
2.     Osteoarthritis. Therapeutic Choices. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
3.     Osteoarthritis- US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)


This article was provided by an Rxnet Pharmacist, Rxnet is a virtual pharmacy network that helps plan sponsors optimize their drug plan design to obtain cost efficient solutions for their plan members. We also work with clients to provide access to our member pharmacies through text refills and online refills.

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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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