Clinician Resources

Quick Facts
Answers to Common Questions
Tips to Reduce the Risk of Osteoarthritis
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Quick Facts

Answers to Common Questions

  • What is the average active person’s risk for knee arthritis?
    • Lifetime risk for diagnosed symptomatic knee OA is about 14% regardless of whether or not they were a former athlete.
  • How common is this condition?
    • Osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis and affects more than 30 million Americans.
    • Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability.
    • Osteoarthritis will become more common as the population ages and the obesity epidemic worsens.
  • How is it diagnosed?
    • Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed based a physical exam by a healthcare professional. In some cases x-rays or other imaging or lab tests may be ordered if the clinician is concerned about other possible causes of the joint symptoms.
  • What are the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis?
    • Symptoms can vary greatly among people. Pain, stiffness, hearing or feeling a grating, functional limitations, diminished range of motion are common symptoms. If your joint doesn’t feel normal it’s always wise to mention it to a healthcare professional.
  • Does osteoarthritis always cause symptoms?
    • No, while people with osteoarthritis are more likely to have symptoms it is possible that some people can walk around with very bad looking joints on x-rays but be asymptomatic but the opposite can also be true where someone with mild disease may have severe symptoms.
  • At what age do people typically develop this condition?
    • Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed between 55 to 64 years
    • Despite people thinking it’s a disease of older adults – more than half of all persons with symptomatic osteoarthritis are younger than 65 years
    • People with a previous joint injury are often diagnosed 10 years earlier than their peers.
    • Younger people with osteoarthritis report significant decreases in quality of life and work-related disability and will likely live several decades with disability.
  • Can anything be done to reverse osteoarthritis?
    • No, no intervention has been approved by the US FDA to stop, slow or reverse the onset or progression of osteoarthritis.
    • We can take steps to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis (weight management, injury prevention program)
  • Does being an active person who exercises or plays sports increase the chance someone will develop osteoarthritis?
    • No, being active, including running, poses no harm and may even be beneficial.
    • However, some athletes may be more likely to have osteoarthritis later in life. For example, athletes with a joint injury and participants in soccer, elite-level long distance running, elite-level wrestling, and elite-level weightlifting.
  • Can knee injuries lead to osteoarthritis?
    • A person with a history of a knee injury is 3 to 6 times more likely to get knee osteoarthritis than their peer.
  • How does being inactive change my chance of osteoarthritis?
    • Physical inactivity contributes to an increase in weight gain and obesity, which is a major factor that contributes to osteoarthritis.
    • Being inactive also increases a person’s risk for other chronic disease and may lower the person’s quality of life.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Osteoarthritis

    • Support and implement evidence-based primary injury-prevention interventions to reduce the risk of acute traumatic joint injuries (see helpful resources below).
    • Educate patients with joint injuries about their increased risk of osteoarthritis, other common risk factors for OA, self-management strategies to minimize the burden of osteoarthritis, and strategies to regularly monitor changes in joint health.
    • Encourage athletes to maintain a physically active lifestyle once their participation in competitive sports has ceased to reduce the risk of obesity and promote long-term health and wellness.
    • Use existing guidelines and recommendations for managing OA among physically active individuals (also see this full text)

Helpful Resources