Search IconSearch

Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Osteoarthritis?

The short answer from a rheumatologist

Woman with group lifting had weights to stave off osteoarthritis

Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent osteoarthritis? Or is it just inevitable?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A: Osteoarthritis may seem like something we have to put up with as we age. It may not be possible to completely stop the underlying cause of osteoarthritis, but that does not mean there’s nothing you can do. Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage, a cushioning tissue that covers the ends of bones at joints, starts to deteriorate. This can cause pain, stiffness and swelling to varying degrees.

One risk factor for painful osteoarthritis is having a BMI > 25 (having overweight) or a BMI > 30 (having obesity). Your joints are meant to withstand a certain amount of force. But every pound of excess weight adds two to four pounds of pressure on your knees. By losing 20 pounds, you’re taking 40 to 80 pounds of force off of them. Losing weight can help to at least slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.

You can also protect joints by staying physically fit, in particular by strengthening the muscles that surround vulnerable joints. Strong muscles mean less stress on the joint itself. Regular exercise of all kinds, including aerobic activity, helps keep joints healthy. That’s because the most mobile joints in the body contain a liquid called synovial fluid. When a joint is compressed, this fluid washes over the joint, providing lubrication and nourishment.

Other tips for keeping joints healthy include not smoking, staying well hydrated (water is a major component of cartilage) and eating a healthy diet. One study, published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, found that people who ate the highest amounts of fiber were less likely to have symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.

— Rheumatologist Chad Deal, MD


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

close-up of hand with Psoriatic Arthritis
December 13, 2021/Rheumatology & Immunology
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

What’s the difference between these types of inflammatory arthritis?

woman's legs hurt osteoarthritis or psoriatic arthritis
December 10, 2021/Rheumatology & Immunology
Psoriatic Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis

What’s the difference between these types of arthritis?

Kinesio Tape knee osteoarthritis
Can Kinesio Tape Help with Osteoarthritis?

An expert explains the potential benefits

older man suffering knee pain
December 7, 2020/Weight Loss
Here’s Why Losing Weight Is the Key to Losing Joint Pain

Even one less pound helps preserve hips and knees

Illustration of doctor and patient with arthritis in knee
November 18, 2019/Orthopaedics
What Type of Doctor Treats Arthritis?

Most primary care doctors can treat osteoarthritis, but sometimes a specialist is needed

Older man with knee pain in doctor's office
September 3, 2019/Chronic Pain
Could Nerve Blocks or Radiofrequency Ablation Help Ease Your Knee Pain?

Non-surgical ways to help you function better

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims