Choose a category


  • Arthritis is a general term that refers to over 150 different conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joints
  • Knowing the type of arthritis you have means that you can make informed decisions about your healthcare
  • You can live well with arthritis by working closely with your healthcare team and by making positive lifestyle changes

On this page

joint image

Arthritis is a general term that refers to over 150 different conditions. The accurate term for this group of conditions is musculoskeletal conditions, as they affect the muscles, bones and/or joints. 

Some common types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, polymyalgia rheumatica and ankylosing spondylitis. 

Anyone can get arthritis, including children and young people. It can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles.

Symptoms of arthritis

Arthritis affects people in different ways and each type of arthritis will have specific symptoms. However, common symptoms across the many conditions are:

  • pain
  • swelling in a joint
  • redness and warmth in a joint
  • stiffness or reduced movement of a joint
  • general symptoms such as fatigue and feeling unwell.

Sometimes, these symptoms are called 'rheumatism'. Rheumatism isn't a disorder in itself, but the word is often used to describe any sort of joint or muscle pain.

Back to top

Diagnosing arthritis

As there are so many different types of arthritis, it is important that you seek a diagnosis if you suspect you have the condition. Treatment, especially medication, can differ greatly between different forms of arthritis. A correct diagnosis can mean you get the most appropriate care. 

Speak to your doctor about your symptoms. They will take your history, examine your joints and may order an x-ray and some tests. If appropriate, your doctor will refer you to a specialist, often a rheumatologist, for diagnosis and specialised management of your condition. 

Back to top

Managing your arthritis

Living with arthritis can be different from person to person, and symptoms can vary from day to day. Treatment and management options vary with the type of arthritis, its severity and the parts of the body affected. 

There is no cure for arthritis. Management options can include medical treatment and medication, physiotherapy, exercise and self-management techniques.

Your arthritis healthcare team

A range of health professionals are able to help you manage your arthritis. These may include:

  • your doctor
  • rheumatologist
  • physiotherapist
  • dietitian
  • occupational therapist
  • exercise physiologist
  • podiatrist
  • pharmacist
  • nurse
  • psychologist.

Medication for arthritis

Different types of arthritis are treated by different medications. Some arthritis medications aim to reduce pain and inflammation. Others can slow down damage to joints in some types of arthritis. 

The medication your doctor prescribes will depend on your type of arthritis and the severity of your symptoms. It is important to discuss any medication or other treatment with your doctor or rheumatologist so they can monitor your treatment. 

The most common medications include:

  • pain-relieving medications (analgesics) - have no effect on the joint or your arthritis. They simply stop you feeling the pain.
  • creams and ointments - can be rubbed into the skin over a painful joint to relieve pain.
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - treat inflammation, pain and swelling.
  • corticosteroids and injections into the joint - if you have severe pain and inflammation in your joints, then your doctor may prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory medicine called a corticosteroid. These can be taken as tablets or given by injection directly into a joint, muscle or other soft tissue.
  • disease-modifying medications – are used for inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. They work on controlling your overactive immune system. They help relieve pain and inflammation, and can also reduce or prevent joint damage
  • biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARDs or biologics) – are treatments for people with inflammatory forms of arthritis. These newer medications also work on controlling your immune system. However unlike other disease modifying drugs, biologics target specific cells and proteins that are causing this inflammation and damage, rather than suppressing your entire immune system..


There are many things you can do to manage your arthritis, including:

  • Stay active - physical activity is the key to maintaining muscle strength, joint flexibility and managing your pain. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help design an individual program for you. This can be arranged by your doctor on a GP Management Plan as part of managing chronic illness.
  • Learn ways to manage pain - there are many strategies you can use to deal with pain. Knowing about these and what works best for you is an important part of living with a chronic condition such as arthritis.
  • Watch your diet - while there is no diet that can cure arthritis, a healthy and well-balanced diet is the best for general good health. Keeping to a healthy weight is also important as any extra weight puts added strain on your joints. In particular load bearing joints such as your hips, knee and ankles.
  • Protect your joints - find out about aids, equipment and gadgets that can make tasks easier. An occupational therapist can give you advice on aids, equipment and home modifications. The Independent Living centre can also be a very useful contact for information and advice.
  • Work closely with your healthcare team - the best way to live well with arthritis is by working closely with all the practitioners who make up your healthcare team.
  • Stay at work or at school – they are both good for your health and wellbeing. Talk to your doctor or allied healthcare professional about ways to help you to get back to or to stay at work or school.   It is useful to focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do at your workplace or school.   
  • Join a peer support group - dealing with a chronic condition can be isolating. Being able to speak with others who understand your condition can be a great relief. Peer support groups exist for people with all different forms of arthritis. Click here for details of your nearest group. 

Back to top

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Rheumatologist
  • Exercise physiologist
  • MOVE muscle, bone & joint health
    Help Line Tel. 1800 263 265
  • Medicines Line Tel. 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) - for information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines
  • Independent Living Centre Tel. (03) 9362 6111 or 1300 885 886

Back to top

Things to remember

  • Arthritis is a general term that refers to over 150 different conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joints
  • Knowing the type of arthritis you have means that you can make informed decisions about your healthcare
  • You can live well with arthritis by working closely with your healthcare team and by making positive lifestyle changes.

More information

  • Need medical information regarding your condition and commonly prescribed treatments? Or assistance navigating the health, disability and social services systems? Contact the nurses on our Help Line on 1800 263 265 or email
  • Interested in finding out about our upcoming webinars and seminars and other events. Click here to learn more.

Download a PDF copy of this information.

This information has been provided by the Better Health Channel and has been produced in consultation with and approved by: MOVE muscle, bone & joint health.

Move - muscle, bone and joint health, the new voice of Arthritis Victoria

Welcome to MOVE muscle, bone & joint health, the new voice of Arthritis and Osteoporosis Victoria.

We may have a new name but since 1968 we have been the leading provider of supported solutions and trusted knowledge to the one-in-three Australians who live with these conditions.

continue to site