Osteoarthritis is most common and generally referred to as 'wear and tear' arthritis. The cartilage that lines the joint and provides a frictionless surface for joint movement gradually over time begins to break down. As the protection the cartilage provides the joint is diminished the articulating surfaces of the joint rub on each other.
Particularly common sites effected by osteoarthritis are the weight bearing joints (in particular the knees and hips) but also joints that have experienced excessive use over many years (such as the spine or hands).
The onset of osteoarthritis can be gradual and often as a result of many years of ongoing use, or it can be the results of a specific trauma such as a car accident or a fall.
Management of osteoarthritis typically includes gentle passive movements, electrotherapy, heat, muscle stimulation, anti-inflammatory medications, gentle exercise (often hydrotherapy) and advice to minimize further damage. In advanced osteoarthritis joint replacement may be considered.