School of Pharmacy

Osteoarthritis is a common condition with associated pain, joint stiffness and reduced quality of life. It affects the joints, most commonly the knees, hips, spine and small joints of the hands, but it can also occur in other joints. Damage and loss of joint-lining cartilage, damage to adjacent bone, and inflammation of the tissues around the joint are the main characteristics of the condition. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, with around 1 million people seeing their GP about it every year. It accounts for 115,000 hospital admissions in the UK each year. The condition can affect people’s ability to undertake daily activities, and is one of the leading causes of pain and disability worldwide (NICE 2014). Assessing and managing pain associated with osteoarthritis requires a structured multidisciplinary approach.

Musculoskeletal: History Taking


Musculoskeletal: Understanding Joint Swelling


Musculoskeletal: Examination of Hands


Musculoskeletal: Examination of Arthritic Hands


Musculoskeletal: Clinical Reasoning Based on Examination Findings



  1. About 50% of people with symptomatic osteoarthritis do not seek medical care and advice. Write down the reasons why you think this may be the case.
  2. Think about a person you know who has arthritis (this could be a relative, colleague or a patient) How can you tell they have arthritis? What signs and symptoms indicate to you that it is osteoarthritis?
  3. Chronic pain is a symptom of osteoarthritis. Describe how you would assess this pain?
  4. What is chronic pain syndrome?
  5. What do you think is involved in learning to manage pain successfully?


Further reading:

NICE (2014) Osteoarthritis: Care and management in adults. CG177.

Ng, N. Heesch, K.Brown, W. (2012) Strategies for Managing Osteoarthritis. International Journal of Behavioural Medicine 19, 298 – 307.

Cox F (2009) Managing pain in osteoarthritis. Primary Health Care. 19, 7, 38-45.