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 professionals. Treatment involves a combination of self-management (such as diet and exercise), education on living with the condition, physiotherapy, medication (for pain and inflammation), and referral to specialist care where necessary (WHO 2019). Based on survey data, arthritis was managed at an estimated 3.5% of general practice visits in 2015–16 (Britt et al. 2016).

Medications

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.

Hospitalisation

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

Osteoarthritis was the most common musculoskeletal reason for hospitalisation in 2017–18 (accounting for 34% of all musculoskeletal hospitalisations), followed by back pain and problems (23%). Other less common musculoskeletal reasons for hospitalisation were rheumatoid arthritis (1.5%), osteoporosis (1.0%) and gout (1.0%).

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

Surgery

Joint replacement surgery may be required for those with severe arthritic conditions who are unresponsive to medication and exercise (RACGP 2018). 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 (AOANJRR 2019).

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