Treatment & management of arthritis

Primary health care

At present there is no cure for arthritis, with treatment aiming to manage symptoms and maximise quality of life. Arthritis-related conditions are predominantly managed in primary health care settings by a range of health professions. Treatment involves a combination of medication (for pain and inflammation), physiotherapy, self-management (such as diet and exercise), education on living with the condition and referral to specialist care where necessary. Based on survey data, arthritis was managed at an estimated 3.5% of general practice visits in 2015–16 [1].


Medication is primarily used to manage symptoms of pain, inflammation and improve functioning and quality of life among people with arthritis. Medications can range from general over-the-counter analgesics (painkillers) to highly specialised medications and vary depending on the type and severity of the condition.

See the osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis and gout pages for further information on the medications used for these conditions.


Arthritis-related conditions are often managed in hospitals when specialised treatment or surgery is required.

Osteoarthritis was the most common musculoskeletal reason for hospitalisation (accounting for 33% of all musculoskeletal hospitalisations), followed by back pain and problems (22%). Other less common musculoskeletal reasons for hospitalisation were rheumatoid arthritis (1.7%), osteoporosis (1.1%), gout (1.0%) and juvenile arthritis (0.3%).

See the osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis and gout pages for further information on hospitalisations for these conditions.


Joint replacement surgery may be required for those with severe arthritic conditions who are unresponsive to medication and exercise [2]. These procedures restore joint function, help relieve pain and improve quality of life of the affected person. Osteoarthritis is the most common condition leading to hip and knee replacement surgery in Australia [3].

See the osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis pages for further information on surgery for these conditions.


  1. Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, Bayram C, Harrison C, Valenti L et al. 2016. General practice activity in Australia 2015–16. General practice series no. 40. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  2. RACGP (The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) 2007. Referral for joint replacement: a management guide for health providers. Melbourne: RACGP.
  3. AOA (Australian Orthopaedic Association) 2011. Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry. Annual Report. Adelaide: AOA.