BACKGROUND Aches and pains are commonly seen in general practice and osteoarthritis may be an underlying cause. Chronic pain can be very distressing for patients and management may be challenging for the general practitioner. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of chronic pain and disability. OBJECTIVE This article looks at an approach to a patient with chronic aches and pains caused by osteoarthritis. DISCUSSION Osteoarthritis is diagnosed clinically. Other causes of joint and bone pain such as inflammatory arthritis and malignancy should be excluded by history, examination and investigations. It is important to assess lifestyle factors, comorbid physical and psychological conditions, and social issues such as isolation and financial stress. Engagement by the GP, along with education, can empower the patient to access the right treatments and reduce pain and disability.