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Pain and OA

Learn about the presence of pain and its relationship with osteoarthritis.
Pain is the most prevalent symptom among people with OA, and is the reason that most patients seek treatment.

  • With progression of disease, pain can become persistent and night pain can disturb sleep.
  • OA pain is experienced in varying severity by patients, and can wax and wane throughout the disease course.
  • Some patients have minimal pain and can function almost normally, while others with a similar level of structural disease can experience severe pain and extensive disability.
  • Sources of variability in the pain experience are currently poorly understood.

Pain is a complex interaction between noxious stimuli and peripheral and central nervous system responses. Psychosocial factors play a major role in mediating this interaction. 12

  • Severity and character of the pain experience depends on individual’s unique social, cultural and personal state.
  • Presence of pain impacts on mood, sleep and social participation.
  • Fatigue, psychological distress and social context may augment the pain experience.
  • People with poor self-efficacy and/or pain catastrophizing tend to experience greater pain and poorer clinical outcomes.
  • Complexity of the pain experience may be why the effect of current treatments on OA pain is only modest at best.

Pain and OA(Adapted from Melzack, 1996)12

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Physiotherapy Exercise and Physical Activity for Knee Osteoarthritis (PEAK)

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