Nursing Care Plans for Osteoarthritis – Best Care Plans(2022)

This article discusses Nursing Care Plans for Osteoarthritis plus its causes, symptoms, preventions, treatments, and interventions.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is not medical advice; it is meant to act as a quick guide to nursing students for learning purposes only and should not be applied without an approved physician’s consent. Please consult a registered doctor in case you’re looking for medical advice.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic joint condition. Osteoarthritis is also called wear-and-tear arthritis, degenerative arthritis, and degenerative joint disease.

A joint is where two bones come together. Cartilage is the protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones. With osteoarthritis, this cartilage breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to rub together. This can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected body areas include the: hands, fingers, shoulder, spine, typically at the neck or lower back, hips, and knees. Osteoarthritis occurs most often in older people, although it can occur in adults of any age.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The most common symptoms of Osteoarthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Loss of flexibility and reduced range of motion
  • Tenderness or discomfort when pressing on the affected areas with fingers
  • Inflammation
  • Crepitus, or grating, crackling, clicking, or popping sounds when you move joints.
  • Bone spurs, or extra lumps of bone, which are typically painless

As Osteoarthritis becomes more advanced, the pain associated with it may become more intense. Over time, swelling in the joint and surrounding area may also occur. Learn how to recognize the early symptoms of Osteoarthritis, which can help you to manage the condition better.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is caused by joint damage. This damage can have a cumulative effect over time, which is why age is one of the main causes of joint damage leading to Osteoarthritis. The older you are, the more repetitive stress you’ve had on your joints.

Other causes of joint damage include:

  • Past injury, such as torn cartilage, dislocated joints, or ligament injuries
  • Joint malformation
  • Obesity
  • Poor posture

Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis.

  1. Having family with the condition, particularly parents or siblings
  2. Gender, with women having higher rates of osteoarthritis than men
  3. Being at least 50 years old, according to the arthritis foundation
  4. Having undergone menopause
  5. Having an occupation that involves kneeling, climbing, heavy lifting, or similar actions
  6. A history of injury
  7. Being overweight or having obesity
  8. Poor posture
  9. Having another medical condition that affects your joint health, such as diabetes or a different type of arthritis
  10. Having osteoarthritis in one part of your body also increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis in other parts of the body.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

Osteoarthritis treatment is centered upon symptom management. The type of treatment that will help you the most will largely depend on the severity of your symptoms and their location.

Often, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, lifestyle changes, and home remedies will be enough to provide you with relief from pain, stiffness, and swelling.


Several different types of Osteoarthritis medications can help provide relief. They include:

Oral pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and other pain relievers help reduce pain but not swelling.

Topical pain relievers. These OTC products are available as creams, gels, and patches. They help numb the joint area and provide pain relief, especially for mild arthritis pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) help reduce swelling as well as pain.

Corticosteroids. These prescription medications are available in oral form. They may also be given by injection directly into a joint. Examples include cortisone and triamcinolone acetonide (Kenalog-40, Zilretta).

Weight management

Being overweight can put a strain on your joints and cause pain. Shedding some pounds helps relieve this pressure and reduces pain. A moderate weight can also lower your risk of other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Adequate sleep

Resting the muscles can lower swelling and inflammation.


Physical activity strengthens the muscles around the joints and may help relieve stiffness. A patient should aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical movement every other day. They should choose gentle, low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming. Tai chi and yoga can also improve joint flexibility and help with pain management.

Complications of osteoarthritis

It’s well known that arthritis, including Osteoarthritis, can cause physical complications. Osteoarthritis can cause emotional complications too.

Physical complications include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Weight gain as a result of pain or limited mobility
  • Osteonecrosis, or bone death
  • Erosion of the ligaments and tendons
  • Hairline (stress) fractures
  • Hemarthrosis, or bleeding near the joints
  • Emotional complications include anxiety and depression brought on by the loss of function. Discover other complications of osteoarthritis.

Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease that often develops slowly. It can be hard to diagnose until it starts to cause painful or debilitating symptoms. Early Osteoarthritis is often diagnosed after an accident or other incident that causes a fracture requiring an X-ray.

In addition to X-rays, a doctor may use an MRI to diagnose Osteoarthritis. This imaging test uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create bone and soft tissue images.

Other diagnostic tests include a blood test to rule out other conditions that cause joint pain, such as RA. A synovial (joint) fluid analysis can also help determine whether gout or infection is the underlying cause of your inflammation.

Types of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hands

Osteoarthritis can affect one or several areas of your hands. These areas often include the following:

  • Distal interphalangeal joint, which is the joint closest to the nail
  • Proximal interphalangeal joint, which is the middle joint of each finger
  • Joint connecting the thumb and the wrist
  • Wrist

The joints that are affected largely determine the symptoms that occur. These symptoms often include:

  1. Stiffness
  2. Pain
  3. Swelling
  4. Redness
  5. Weakness
  6. Trouble moving your fingers
  7. Reduced range of motion
  8. Crepitus when you move your fingers
  9. Trouble gripping or holding onto objects

Osteoarthritis of the Hips

Osteoarthritis can occur in one or both hips. Hip Osteoarthritis is a slowly degenerative condition. Many people find that they’re able to manage their symptoms for many years by using medications, exercise, and physical therapy. Supports, such as canes, can also help.

If the condition worsens, steroid injections, other medications, or surgery can help provide relief. Alternative therapies can also help, and new technologies are on the horizon. Here’s what you need to know about the many treatment options for hip Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the knees

Like hip Osteoarthritis, knee Osteoarthritis can occur in one or both knees. Age, genetics, and knee injury may all play a role in knee Osteoarthritis.

Athletes who concentrate solely on one sport that involves extensive, repetitive motion, such as running or tennis, may be at increased risk of Osteoarthritis. Likewise, if you pursue only one type of physical activity, this may overuse some muscles and underuse others.

Overuse causes weakness and instability in the knee joint. Varying your activities helps to work for different muscle groups, allowing all the muscles around your knee to be strengthened.

Treatment for knee Osteoarthritis depends on the stage of the condition.

Cervical osteoarthritis

Cervical Osteoarthritis is also referred to as cervical spondylosis or neck Osteoarthritis. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, it’s an age-related condition that affects more than 85 percent of people over 60 years old.

The cervical spine is located in the neck and contains facet joints. These joints help to maintain flexibility in the spine, allowing for a full range of motion when the cartilage around the facet joints starts to wear away, cervical Osteoarthritis results.

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Nursing care plans for osteoarthritis
Nursing Care Plans for Osteoarthritis

Cervical Osteoarthritis doesn’t always cause symptoms. If it does, symptoms can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Pain in your shoulder blade, down your arm, or in your fingers
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiffness in your neck
  • Headache, mostly in the back of your head
  • Tingling or numbness down your arms or legs

Occasionally, more serious symptoms can occur, such as the loss of bladder control, bowel control, or balance. If you have these symptoms, get immediate medical help. Check out the risk factors and treatment options for cervical Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis of the Spine

If you have back pain, it may indicate that you have spinal Osteoarthritis. This condition affects the facet joints located throughout the spine.

Age and trauma to the spine are both potential risk factors for spinal Osteoarthritis. A person who is overweight or whose job requires squatting and sitting may also be at increased risk.

Spinal Osteoarthritis’s symptoms can vary in severity. They include:

  • Stiffness or tenderness in the joints in your back
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Reduced range of motion

It’s important to pay attention to these symptoms. Without treatment, spinal Osteoarthritis can worsen, causing more severe symptoms and disability. Get the facts on Osteoarthritis of the spine.

Nursing Care Plans for Osteoarthritis Based on Diagnosis

Nursing Care Plan 1: Diagnosis – Deficient Knowledge 

It is related new diagnosis of Osteoarthritis, as evidenced by the patient’s verbalization of “I want to know more how to manage my illness.”

Desired Outcome

At the end of the health teaching session, the patient will be able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of their acute pain and its management.

Assess the patient’s readiness to learn, misconceptions, and blocks to learning (e.g., denial of diagnosis or poor lifestyle habits).To address the patient’s cognition and mental status towards disease management and to help the patient overcome blocks to learning.
Explain what their pain management program entails (e.g., medications, relaxation techniques, diet, and related physiotherapy or exercises). Avoid using medical jargon and explain in layman’s terms.To provide information on their pain management program for OA.
Inform the patient of the details about the prescribed medications (e.g., drug class, use, benefits, side effects, and risks) to treat acute pain. Ask the patient to repeat or demonstrate the self-administration details to you.To inform the patient of each prescribed drug and to ensure that the patient fully understands the purpose, possible side effects, adverse events, and self-administration details.
Educate the patient about non-pharmacological methods for acute pain such as imagery, distraction techniques, recommended exercises, and relaxation techniques.To reduce stress and to promote optimal pain relief without too much dependence on pharmacological means.
If the patient is for surgery, explain the surgical procedure related to osteoarthritis to the patient and carer.The doctor may recommend surgery to resolve unbearable joint pain due to OA.

Nursing Care Plan 2: Diagnosis – Activity intolerance

It is related to joint inflammation and pain secondary to osteoarthritis, as evidenced by a pain score of 10 out of 10, fatigue, disinterest in ADLs due to pain, verbalization of tiredness, and generalized weakness.

Desired Outcome

The patient will demonstrate active participation in necessary and desired activities and demonstrate an increase in activity levels.

Assess the patient’s activities of daily living, as well as actual and perceived limitations to physical activity. Ask for any form of exercise that they used to do or want to try.To create a baseline of activity levels and mental status related to chronic pain, fatigue, and activity intolerance.
Encourage progressive activity through self-care and exercise as tolerated. Explain the need to reduce sedentary activities such as watching television and using social media for long periods. Alternate periods of physical activity with 60-90 minutes of undisturbed rest.To gradually increase the patient’s tolerance to physical activity. To prevent triggering pain by allowing the patient to pace activity versus rest.
Administer analgesics as prescribed prior to exercise/ physical activity. Teach deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Provide adequate ventilation in the room.To provide pain relief before an exercise session. To allow the patient to relax while at rest and to facilitate effective stress management. To allow enough oxygenation in the room.
Refer the patient to physiotherapy / occupational therapy team as required.To provide more specialized care for the patient in terms of helping them build confidence in increasing daily physical activity.
If the patient is overweight or obese, create a weight loss plan with the patient, career, physiotherapy/occupational therapy, doctors, and dietitian.Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for osteoarthritis, thus, a crucial part of the treatment is to lose weight through diet and exercise.

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Nursing care plans for osteoarthritis
Nursing Care Plans for Osteoarthritis

Related FAQs

1. What are nursing interventions for osteoarthritis?

The major goals of the nursing intervention are pain management and optimal functional ability. Weight loss. Weight loss is an important approach to pain and disability improvement. Assistive devices.

2. What are the 4 main parts of a nursing care plan?

Nursing care plan formats are usually categorized or organized into four columns: (1) nursing diagnoses, (2) desired outcomes and goals, (3) nursing interventions, and (4) evaluation.

3. How do you diagnose osteoarthritis?

X-rays of the affected joints are the main way osteoarthritis is identified. The common X-ray findings of osteoarthritis include loss of joint cartilage, narrowing of the joint space between adjacent bones, and bone spur formation.

4. What is the most effective treatment for osteoarthritis?

Pills. NSAIDs are the most effective oral medicines for OA. They include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) naproxen (Aleve) and diclofenac (Voltaren, others). All work by blocking enzymes that cause pain and swelling.

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