Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the articular cartilage in joints, which involves inflammation, pain and disability. It is the most common form of arthritis and one of the main causes of disability in the UK. One in three people over the age of 65 suffers from osteoarthritis and over two thirds people over 70. Under the age of 50 it is more common amongst men, and over 50 it is more prevalent amongst women.
It commonly occurs as a result of repetitive trauma to the joint (heavy labour, knee bending), or a major injury and mostly affects the weight-bearing joints, such as hips and knees as well as the spine and the metatarsophalangeal (big toe) joint.
It is a common misconception that it is a slowly progressing disease and inevitably gets worse over time. In the majority of cases it can be improved or even repaired with appropriate interventions such as exercise, education and weight loss when appropriate. It is worth noting that a third of sufferers never visit their doctor and half would need to have frequent unbearable pain before they see their GP.