Osteoarthritis Management

It’s so common that people think they just have to live with the pain, the inconvenience and the impact on their lives. 

Some people avoid or stop doing the activities they love because they believe or have been told that it's  “just how things are now”. 

Pain from hip and knee osteoarthritis can really get in the way, but it doesn't have to run your life. 

What if we told you there’s treatment that can help?

Would you jump on that opportunity? 

Because we’re here to tell you those options exist! 

We can’t get rid of osteoarthritis, but we can help you reduce and manage pain and improve function and improve quality of life - and isn’t that what it’s all about?! 

What is Osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis characterised by the breakdown of cartilage in a joint, which can be accompanied by changes to the bones. These changes in the joint can lead to pain, stiffness and swelling that may change from day to day.  

Bony changes can be seen on an X-ray which can be used to grade the severity of the osteoarthritis, but scans don’t tell the whole story. People whose X-ray show severe arthritis may experience little pain, and people whose X-ray show minimal arthritis can experience a lot of pain.  So don’t let the results of your scan run the show - we need to consider the full picture including your pain levels, function, goals and quality of life.

The exact causes of osteoarthritis aren’t known but we do know that factors such as previous surgery and injury, family history and health can play a role in it's development,  and that lifestyle factors can impact how you feel and manage once osteoarthritis is present. 

Contrary to popular belief, activities like running do not increase incidence of osteoarthritis and exercise is an essential part of treatment and management. 

Osteoarthritis can affect many joints, but we see it  most often  in knees, hips, hands, and feet.

How is Osteoarthritis Treated? 

There are a number of treatment options for osteoarthritis. 

The best treatment for you will depend on a number of individualized factors such as severity of osteoathritis, pain levels, function and goals.

Current guidelines recommend first line, second line, and third line treatments based on severity and symptoms. 

First Line Treatment:

These options are recommended for everyone with hip and knee osteoarthritis whether their symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. 

  • Education
  • Exercise 
  • Weight control and reduction 

Second Line Treatment:

In addition to first line treatment, those with moderate symptoms may also benefit from:  

  • Physical Therapy – Modalities, Manual Therapy, Acupuncture
  • Medication
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    • NSAIDs – prescription/Non-prescription (includes Voltaren)
    • Corticosteroid Injection
    • Hyaluranic Acid Injection - lubricant
    • Supplements – ex Glucosamine/Chondroitin
  • Assistive Devices – Braces, Taping, Walking Aids

Third Line Treatment: 

For those with severe symptoms surgery may be considered. 

Often treatment includes a combination of these approaches, and may change as pain and function improve. 

Osteoarthritis Treatment Pyramid

Exercise has been shown to be the BEST treatment for osteoarthritis regardless of severity. 

If you have osteoarthritis, it may send your head spinning to hear that exercise is the best treatment. Maybe you, like many people with hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis experience pain with exercise and activity, which is one of the reasons it can be so limiting. 

But research has shown certain types of exercise help decrease pain and improve function for those living with osteoarthritis.

If you’ve experienced pain with exercise - don’t give up! You may need to explore different types or exercise and get some guidance on how to do the exercises to best support you. 

Working with a Physiotherapist and Kinesiologist in a group setting (like the GLA:D program), or one-on-one  to develop an individualized program is a great place to start.

If you are a candidate for surgery, exercise will help prepare you and contributes to better surgical outcoes and recovery.

What Does Osteoarthritis Treatment Help With? 

Osteoarthritis treatment focuses on: 

  1. Reducing and managing pain 
  2. Improving function 
  3. Improving quality of life 

Treatment will not get rid of osteoarthritis, but rather help you function better and manage pain so you can live a good life with osteoarthritis.

Our Physiotherapists and Kinesiologist work together to help manage pain, and set you up with an individualized exercise program to help you regain function and feel your best!

Physiotherapy is a first line treatment for hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis.


Will Osteoarthritis Management Help Me? 


If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, suspect you have it or are dealing with hip or knee pain, our physiotherapists have options for you. 

Still not sure if Physiotherapy to help manage osteoarthritis is for you? 

Contact us today to book in a FREE consulation with one of your physiotherapists.

Meet Our Therapists Who Treat Osteoarthritis

Registered Physiotherapist at Fit For LIfe Physiotherapy in Burlington, Natalie Letho
David Tait 
Natalie Lehto 
Registered Physiotherapist
Lesley Hughes 
Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington, Miriam Mulkewich Registered Physiotherapist at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington, Ally Ferguson Registered Physiotherapist at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington, Wendy Hancock
Miriam Mulkewich 
Registered Physiotherapist 
Ally Ferguson 
Registered Physiotherapist
Wendy Hancock 
Registered Physiotherapist 
Registered Kinesiologist at Fit For Life Physiotherapy in Burlington, Tamara Cormier
Tamara Cormier 
Registered Kinesiologist

What Does Osteoarthrtitis Treatment Look Like? 

Treatment for osteoarthritis varies from person to person and is based on the individual's symptoms, limitations, and goals.  

In general, treatment will include a combination of: 

Pain reduction and management which includes:

  • Education Self management strategies
  • Modalities such as ultrasound, acupuncture, paraffin wax
  • Hands on (manual) therapy    


  • To help manage pain 
  • To improve strength
  • To improve balance    

As you progress, treatment will change.  For many, the initial focus is on pain management with a gradual increase of exercise. As pain reduces and exercise tolerance increases, the focus will shift to progressing exercise.

During your assessment your physiotherapist will discuss the various options that could work for you. 

Your treatment plan may include sessions with our kinesiologist for exercise, or one of our massage therapists.

What are the Benefits of Osteoarthritis Management?

  • Reduce pain 
  • Reduce inflammation 
  • Improve function: walking faster, going up and down stairs more easily, getting on and off chairs more easily 
  • Improve quality of life: getting back to, and continuing the sports and activities you love, spending time with family and friends, keeping up with your grandchildren

Frequently Asked Questions About Osteoarthritis Management

What is the difference between arthritis & osteoarthritis

Arthritis is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that are characterized by inflammation of the joints and other areas of the body. The word “arthritis” means joint (“arthro”) inflammation (“itis”). Arthritis can affect almost any part of the body but is most commonly seen in the spine, hips, knees and hands.

There are 2 broad categories of arthritis:  Osteoarthritis and Inflammatory Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is a result of the deterioration or break down of cartilage of joint surfaces.

Inflammatory arthritis also results in joint damage but is as a result of inflammation rather than from a wearing away of the joint surfaces. Most forms of inflammatory arthritis are due to an autoimmune response of the body. This auto-immune response means that the body’s immune system (our defence system against infection) begins to attack the body’s healthy tissue! Rhematoid arthritis, Lupus, Psoriatic arthritis and Ankylosing spondylitis are all examples of infalammatory arthritis.

What is the main cause of knee osteoarthritis?

We don’t yet fully understand the causes of osteoarthritis.Currently it appears that not only are there a number of different risk factors, but that the interplay of risk factors have an impact on the location, severity and progression of osteoarthritis. We know that previous injury and surgery, age, genetics, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet & conditions during development have an impact on risk. You can read more about osteoarthritis risk factors in this journal article.  

Does all osteoarthritis require surgery? 

No - not all cases of osteoarthritis require surgery. Before surgery will be considered, conservative measures such as physiotherapy, exercise and pharmaceuticals need to be explored. 

Share this page