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Lifestyle changes can't cure osteoarthritis (OA), but they can help manage the condition, and decrease discomfort and disability. It's important to find a balance to maintain as much of a normal life as possible. Lifestyle recommendations include:

Reach or Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can help:

  • Improve symptoms caused by OA
  • Slow the progression of OA
  • Reduce OA injury in other joints

Excess and/or increasing weight puts extra stress on your joints. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about dietary options.


Joint pain may make people less interested in physical activity, but immobility can make the joints worse. Reasonable physical activity on the other hand, can help improve mobility, flexibility, and decrease pain. Exercise strengthens your muscles, which improves joint stability. Stronger muscles also help to absorb energy and protect the joint surface.

Exercise programs can be tailored to your current abilities and be protective of the joints that are affected by OA. An exercise physiologist or physical therapist can help design a safe, effective program.

Reduce Stress

Stress can make pain worse. Take steps to avoid or manage stress when possible. There are several ways to reduce stress , such as meditation, yoga, guided breathing and other relaxation techniques .

Returning to Everyday Life

It is normal to feel concerned or frustrated with changes and challenges created by osteoarthritis. Support groups or one-on-one counseling can help you navigate the challenges of OA. Support groups allow for interaction with others who have similar experiences. They offer an environment of encouragement and support that will help with adjustments and treatment adherence.

Talk to your healthcare team about symptoms or treatments that you are having difficulty with. Other treatments options may be available to help better manage your OA.

Monitor Yourself for Depression

It is common to experience mood changes, especially within the first few months of a new diagnosis or during periods of more intense symptoms. Depression can undermine your recovery and put you at risk for more serious health complications. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in your favorite activities that stay with you for at least 2 weeks should prompt a call to your doctor. There are several treatment options available, such as medications and/or counseling.


ACR issues recommendations on therapies for osteoarthritis of the hand, hip, and knee. Am Fam Physician. 2013;87(7):515-516.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Fransen M, McConnell S. Exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;CD004376.

Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated April 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.

Sinusas, K. Osteoarthritis: Diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(1):49-56.

2/26/2010 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Cadmus L, Patrick MB, et al. Community-based aquatic exercise and quality of life in persons with osteoarthritis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(1):8-15.

2/15/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance McAlindon T, LaValley M, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on progression of knee pain and cartilage volume loss in patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2013;309(2):155-162.

Last reviewed May 2016 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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