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Oxford Textbook of Rheumatology (4 ed.)

Claire Y. J. Wenham

and Philip G. Conaghan

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition which often causes pain and functional limitation, significantly impacting on a person’s quality of life. A comprehensive assessment of the impact of OA should be performed before selecting therapies and treatment goals. Current recommended therapies include a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies, which should be considered for all people with OA, regardless of anatomical site of involvement. Non-pharmacological treatments include education, muscle strengthening and aerobic exercises, weight loss if appropriate, splints and devices, and aids. Pharmacological therapies include paracetamol, oral and topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical capsaicin, intra-articular corticosteroid injections, and opioids. Many existing therapies have only a small analgesic effect size and, in the case of drug therapies, may be associated with important side effects, so an individual’s symptoms and comorbidities must be taken into account when selecting therapies. For those who do not respond to these treatments, surgery such as a total joint arthroplasty may be required. There is a strong need for new analgesic treatments for OA. As it is becoming increasingly clear that the sources of pain in OA are complex and multifactorial, future treatments for OA will need to target both peripheral and central pain mechanisms.

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