When osteoarthritis becomes so severe that pain and immobility make normal functioning impossible, many people become candidates for artificial (prosthetic) joint implants using a procedure called arthroplasty. Hip replacement is the most established and successful replacement procedure, followed by knee replacement. Other joint surgeries (shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers) are less common, and some arthritic joints (in the spine, for instance) cannot yet be treated in this manner.

After surgery, therapy is initiated and emphasizes improving mobility as well as increasing motion and strength in the surgical area.