What is osteoarthritis?

We talk about how to take care of osteoarthritis.

June 18, 2020


Arthritis is painful swelling of the joints or the place where two bones come together. Sometimes arthritis can cause structural changes in the body.

There are three kinds of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis — sometimes thought of as “aging” arthritis
  • Post-traumatic — this happens after a break or injury
  • Inflammatory — this happens with other medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and psoriatic arthritis 

We can help you with osteoarthritis in the knees and hips. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that osteoarthritis affects more than 32 million adults in the U.S. every year. 

Osteoarthritis is often called a degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Similar to how a brake pad in a car wears out, the worn out parts of the knee or hip have to be replaced in order to work as they should. 

Osteoarthritis increases after the age of 50. Factors that raise your chances for having osteoarthritis include: 

  • Age 
  • Obesity
  • Female
  • Repetitive stress or injury
  • Genetics (traits inherited from your parents)
  • Race
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • Misshapen joints
  • Immobility

Figuring out osteoarthritis

If you have symptoms of osteoarthritis, we review your medical history and do a complete physical exam. We may also suggest that you get an X-ray.

Patients with osteoarthritis often have symptoms, such as:


  • Pain in part of the knee instead of the whole knee
  • A grinding or grating feeling
  • A sharp ache
  • Pain that radiates to calf or ankle area
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning 


  • Usually in groin area, “C-shaped”
  • Pain that feels sharp
  • Pain that worsens with bending
  • Limp
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning

Caring for osteoarthritis 

Treatment for osteoarthritis is different for each person. We work closely with you to create a plan that's right for you, be it nonsurgical and/or surgical care.

Nonsurgical care includes: 

  • Exercise
  • Therapy
  • Bracing
  • Medications
  • Injections (shots)

Surgical care includes:

  • A scope or “joint realignment”
  • Partial joint replacement
  • Total joint replacement

We always try to find nonsurgical ways to care for osteoarthritis first. When those are no longer effective, surgery may be the best way to take care of pain and improve how well your joints work. 


Surgery for osteoarthritis can be a major operation and requires:

  • Evaluation
  • Education
  • Exercise


Before doing surgery for osteoarthritis, we ask your primary care team to do a complete evaluation, including lab work and studies to learn more about your heart and lungs. We also review how likely it is that surgery will be successful for you.


We ask that you go to a free joint seminar before having surgery. The seminar will give you an overview of joint replacement and give you and your family time to ask questions.


Exercising and moving a lot before your surgery will help improve your strength, range of motion and endurance. It will help set you up for the most successful recovery.

Physical therapy may be recommended to help create an exercise program to prepare your body for surgery.

Outpatient surgery 

Outpatient surgery can be a good option for the right candidate. It allows patients to go home the first day. To be eligible for outpatient surgery, patients must have no major medical issues and a strong support system at home.  

First Hill Surgery Center is The Polyclinic’s outpatient surgery center. It’s one of the region’s largest independent outpatient surgery centers. You can expect superior surgical care in a patient-friendly setting. 


Robotics are another way to do total joint replacements. Using a 3D virtual model that’s unique to your hip or knee, we can plan and do joint replacement with more personalization and precision. 

Short-term research shows that using robotics can result in less pain, shorter hospital stays and increased mobility after surgery.

Living with osteoarthritis 

Physical activity, weight loss and changing routines help many people ease their osteoarthritis symptoms. If your pain continues after taking steps like these, think about seeing a specialist.

To schedule an appointment with our orthopedics department, please call 1-206-860-4431.


By David A. Ibrahim, MD

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.