Dr David Collins  MD FRCP

  Consultant Rheumatologist


Tel / Fax: 01285 885146





Is the most common form of joint disease. It causes pain and stiffness in your joints and is believed to affect up to 8 million people in the UK. It’s sometimes called osteoarthrosis, arthrosis or degenerative joint disease.

When a joint has osteoarthritis its surfaces become damaged and it doesn’t move as well as it should do. The following happens:

  • The cartilage becomes rough and thin.

  • The bone at the edge of the joint grows outwards, forming bony spurs called osteophytes.

  • The lining of the joint may swell and produce extra fluid, causing the joint to swell.

  • The surrounding tissues and ligaments thicken and contract.

  • The loss of cartilage, the wearing of bone and the osteophytes can alter the shape of your joint, forcing the bones out of their normal position.

The commonest affected joints are the small joints of the fingers, the thumb bases, the hips, the knees and the big toe joints.


There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are a number of treatments that can help ease symptoms and reduce the chances of your arthritis becoming worse.


Painkillers (analgesics): help with pain and stiffness but they don’t affect the arthritis itself and won’t repair the damage to your joint.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): for example ibuprofen or naproxen, may be recommended if inflammation in a joint is contributing to your pain and stiffness.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams and gels are a good option if you have trouble taking NSAID tablets. They’re particularly helpful for osteoarthritis of the knee or hand but not for deep joints like the hip.


Capsaicin cream: is made from the pepper plant (capsicum) and is an effective and well-tolerated painkiller. It’s particularly useful for osteoarthritis of the hand and knee.


Stronger painkillers: for example opioids/anti-inflammatories, may be prescribed if you have severe pain and other medications don’t work well enough.


Steroid injections: are sometimes given directly into a particularly painful joint. These are much better tolerated and safer than generally believed and the ‘three in a lifetime’ rule is a myth.


Surgery: (including joint replacement) may be recommended if you have severe pain or mobility problems. This is especially useful in hip and knee osteoarthritis


Supplements:  There are numerous supplements and complimentary remedies available on the general market. There is limited evidence that fish oils, Glucosamine Sulphate and MSM may ease pain and stiffness, but no evidence that they arrest the natural progression of the condition.  Even here the scientific evidence is not strong, and for all the other remedies is non-existent.  Fortunately there is little that can do you any harm.


A lot of useful information can be found here: