Help & Advice

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint. Inflammation can damage the surface of the joint and sometimes the underlying bone. Sometimes the inflammation may also affect the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint

In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. The condition affects people of all ages, including children, but is more prevalent in the 50+ age group. There are many different types of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

  • Most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people
  • Mostly affects people over 50
  • Wear and tear on joints causes cartilage to waste away
  • Most frequent in the hands, spine, knees and hips.
  • Can occur at points of previous injury such as sports injuries

How is Osteoarthritis managed?

The management of osteoarthritis is usually based around:

  • Exercise
  • Weight loss

Exercise is probably the most important treatment for people with osteoarthritis, whatever their age or level of fitness. Physical activity should include a combination of exercises to strengthen muscles and improve general fitness.

Exercise is also good for:

  • relieving stress
  • losing weight
  • improving posture

all of which will help to ease symptoms.

Being overweight makes osteoarthritis worse. Extra weight puts more strain on damaged joints, which have a reduced ability to repair themselves. Joints in the lower limbs, which carry most of the weight of the body, are under particular stress in people who are overweight or obese. Changes in diet together with good nutrition and a suitable exercise programme will contribute towards weight loss and a general improvement in health.

What Medicines are used to treat Osteoarthritis?

  • Paracetamol is often tried first as it seems to work in many cases and is best taken regularly rather than waiting for pain to start
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If paracetamol is not effective a NSAID (such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac) can be added. It may be necessary to take an anti-acid medicine such as omeprazole as well to reduce stomach problems. Some NSAIDs are available as creams (topical NSAIDs) and work best in the knees or hands.
  • Opioids, such as codeine or dihydrocodeine, are another type of painkiller used to treat more severe pain,
  • Capsaicin cream is a substance that is derived from chilli peppers. The 0.025% (low strength) is used in osteoarthritis. It works by decreasing the levels of the chemical that tells the nerves you are experiencing pain.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • More severe, but less common (affects around 400,000 people in UK)
  • Starts between the ages of 40 and 50
  • Caused by body's immune system attacking the affected joints, causing pain and swelling leading to reduction in movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage.
  • Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
  • Usually treated by a specialist Rheumatologist