Issues in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis

Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, MD, Family Physician and CME Lecturer, Toronto, ON.

With the demographic shift in Canada--the "greying" of its population--arthritis is a growing health concern. A leading cause of long-term disability in Canada, arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases result in $17.8 billion in lost productivity annually.1 Currently, four million Canadians are affected by arthritis, and the number of people afflicted is expected to double in the next 20 years.2 Already, 33% of Canada's seniors have osteoarthritis,2 the most common form of arthritis in older adults.

Effective osteoarthritis care requires a spectrum of approaches on the biopsychosocial model including: advice on carrying out daily activities (coping with fatigue, protecting joints, using orthotics); controlling pain through approaches such as relaxation therapy, massage therapy, hydrotherapy or acupuncture; using walking/assistive devices; and learning more about arthritis from organizations or websites. Self-help groups are a particularly valuable resource for arthritis patients.

Many patients ask about alternative remedies such as glucosamine or chondroitin, which have shown some effectiveness in studies. A full discussion of complementary therapies for arthritis is presented on the Arthritis Society website at

Medication remains the mainstay for controlling arthritis pain of all types.