Non-Surgical Treatments for Osteoarthritis

There is no cure for osteoarthritis but there are lots of ways to improve the symptoms you are getting. Many patients can manage their symptoms with self-help measures but when this becomes difficult it is important to contact the healthcare team to seek alternative methods. In the first instance non-surgical management should be tried and when these methods are not working it may be necessary to discuss the surgical treatment options with a specialist orthopaedic surgeon.


You may find these decision aids helpful in deciding which treatment options are right for you: 

Hip arthritis decision aid

Knee arthritis decision aid

Lifestyle Advice in Osteoarthritis

Lifestyle advice involves making changes to your everyday activities in order to manage your pain and reduced function on a daily basis. It maybe that you change the way you carry out certain activities or reduce the activities that are making your joint problems worse. If you are overweight, losing some of this excess weight will help relieve some of the strain on your joints.

For more information on lifestyle advice in osteoarthritis visit:
Arthritis Research UK

Tablets & Painkillers for Osteoarthritis

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need additional treatments such as painkilling medication. You can initially try simple over the counter medication such as paracetamol and certain anti-inflammatory medications. If these are not controlling your symptoms then you can speak to your GP about alternative medications.

For more information on painkillers in osteoarthritis visit:
Arthritis Research UK


Steroid Injections in Osteoarthritis

Steroids act as an anti-inflammatory and when delivered as an injection directly into the joint can be used to reduce joint inflammation and pain. Injections may be given by a number of health professionals including GPs, physiotherapists, rheumatologists and orthopaedic surgeons. Occasionally we require ultrasound or x-rays to accurately find the joint to be injected and then a radiologist will carry out the procedure.

For more information on steroid injections in osteoarthritis visit:

Arthritis Research UK

Physiotherapy & Exercise in Osteoarthritis

It is important to maintain activity as much as possible working in maintaining the range of movement of the joint and the strength of the surrounding muscles. Physiotherapists can advise on the most appropriate exercises depending on the joints involved. A physiotherapist can be accessed through your General Practitioner.

For more information on exercise in osteoarthritis visit:
Arthritis Research UK

Hip arthritis decision aid

Knee arthritis decision aid

Occupational Therapy in Osteoarthritis

An occupational therapist or physiotherapist can offer various devices that can help off load the stresses across painful joints. A walking stick can be used to reduce the weight and stress on a painful hip or knee and splints can be useful for example in osteoarthritis of the base of the thumb.  Occupational therapists are experts in helping to adapt to the symptoms and disabilities that osteoarthritis can cause, for example providing aids for the kitchen in hand osteoarthritis.

For more information on occupational therapists visit:
Arthritis Research UK

Orthotics in Osteoarthritis

An orthotic is a support or brace used to improve the function of your joints. Shoe inserts are some of the more commonly used orthotics. Other orthotics include neck braces, lumbosacral supports, knee braces, and wrist supports. Simple foot orthotics can be purchased over the counter but more specialized equipment requires review by an orthotist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist.

For more information on orthotics visit:
Arthritis Research UK

Podiatry in Osteoarthritis

A podiatrist specialises in foot complaints and can help diagnose and non-operatively treat osteoarthritis affecting the joints of the foot and ankle. They may provide specialist orthotics to support the joints of our foot and ankle

For more information on podiatrists visit:
NHS Choices

Complementary & Alternative Medicines (CAM) in Osteoarthritis

Complementary and alternative medicine uses practices that work alongside current western medicine. It includes treatments not currently considered part of evidence-based Western practice. Examples of CAM include:

  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic
  • osteopathy
  • hypnosis
  • yoga
  • massage therapy
  • various herbal remedies.

Speak to your local NHS GP about the availability of complementary and alternative therapies in your area.

For more information on complementary medicines visit:
Arthritis Research UK