Everything you need to know about living well with osteoarthritis
You may be wondering, what is osteoarthritis? Healthcare Pro are here to help explain this, as well as explore the treatments for osteoarthritis, what causes osteoarthritis, and potential osteoarthritis diet and exercise regimes. We also provide advice about products that can help if you have osteoarthritis. We hope you find this guide useful.
If you are concerned that you may have osteoarthritis symptoms, please see your GP.
Osteoarthritis is a common condition affecting the body’s joints, resulting in osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain or stiffness; this may occur in certain areas depending on where the joints are affected, for example, the most common osteoarthritis types are of the knee, hip, ankle, and hand/wrist. Some people may find it occurs in one area, whereas others will experience it in multiple areas.
Osteoarthritis is very common, with around 8.5 million people in the UK seeking treatment for osteoarthritis symptoms. It most often affects people over the age of 40 and is more prevalent in women than men.
There is no cure, but many osteoarthritis treatments are available, and there are ways to help make sure a person can manage their symptoms, reduce their pain and ensure their symptoms do not worsen.
For further information on ‘what is osteoarthritis?’, visit the Arthritis Research UK website.
• Bones around the joints begin to grow outward into tiny points called osteophytes
• Joints become swollen due to the inside layer of the joint (the synovium) thickening and making extra fluid
• The body tries to make the joint stable again, and causes the ligaments and capsule to thicken, making the inside of the joint narrower
The Arthritis Research UK website has a wealth of information about how normal joints work, and what causes osteoarthritis to develop.
Increasing age, being overweight and having had major operations on joints are all potential osteoarthritis causes. These factors may increase a person’s risk of developing the condition.
Repetitive tasks and physically demanding tasks done over an extended period may also lead to osteoarthritis. For example, a person who lifts heavy loads for many years may be at higher risk.
It is also possible to develop abnormalities in the joints during childhood, which may lead to osteoarthritis at some stage.
Genetic research suggests some types of osteoarthritis potentially run in families, such as nodal osteoarthritis, but this is still being explored.
One or a combination of these factors may be what triggers osteoarthritis for some people and not others.
Everyone will experience osteoarthritis symptoms differently depending on the level of damage to joints and the areas of the body affected. People report that their symptoms vary day to day, with no apparent reason. Some days, they feel better, and some days they may experience more pain. Some people find that their symptoms may get gradually worse, and some feel they are improving with treatment. Some people may find their symptoms affect their daily life, whereas others will not find that to be the case. Everyone’s body reacts and works differently.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis mainly include:The two main types of diabetes are called Type 1 and Type 2.
• Pain or tenderness when moving or at night when joints have been active all day
• Stiffness after you have rested
• Grinding sound/sensation (crepitus) as you move
• Hard or soft swelling around the joints
• Muscle weakness around the affected joints
If you think you may have osteoarthritis symptoms, we advise you visit your GP to discuss these. Your GP is likely to examine the affected area. They may determine an osteoarthritis diagnosis depending on your age and description of symptoms. They may also recommend you have an X-ray. You will have the physical symptoms of osteoarthritis explained to you, as well as treatment options that are available.
To find out more about the symptoms of osteoarthritis, visit the NHS website.
Treatment mostly aims to manage pain and discomfort effectively so that you can live well with the condition. Most people will find their symptoms become less troublesome but may have periods when the condition flares up and symptoms become worse again; this can occur due to the weather or activities that aggravate the joints.
Osteoarthritis does not always get worse and with the right treatment, people find they can manage their symptoms well. Your treatment plan is likely to include multiple solutions, such as medication, therapeutic products, lifestyle changes and physical therapies.
Your GP may recommend some or a combination of these osteoarthritis treatments:
• Taking painkillers or using topical pain relieving products
• Heat therapy for relaxing muscles and lubricating joints
• Cold therapy for reducing inflammation or swelling
• Incorporating regular exercise into your day, at least 30 minutes
• Managing body weight and losing weight if necessary
• Using joint support devices or bandages
• Using a TENS machine
• Manual therapy from a physiotherapist
If your pain is very severe, your GP may prescribe stronger medication such as naproxen, tramadol, or meptazinol.
If you are referred to a physiotherapy service, you may be given specific osteoarthritis exercises to mobilise your joints and muscles. You may also receive massage therapy to physically manipulate the muscles and tissue, to improve mobility and reduce discomfort. For more information about how physiotherapy may be able to help you, visit the NHS Choices website.
There are also a number of other complementary therapy practitioners, trained to offer treatment for osteoarthritis pain and symptoms, for example, acupuncturists, chiropractors and osteopaths. Their services are rarely available through the NHS, but your GP can advise if they would be of benefit to you and may be able to refer you to a private practitioner. If you are interested in how these services may be able to help you, Versus Arthritis have a section on their website that offers more information on complementary therapies and if they could help.
Some people who have severe pain or mobility problems as a result of their osteoarthritis may be offered surgery to replace the damaged joint. Arthroplasty is the most common, which replaces knee and hip joints. Arthrodesis and osteotomy are also sometimes carried out. Versus Arthritis have a useful section on their website which provides information about the benefits and risks of surgery.
Living with a long-term health condition may present challenges to everyday life. You may experience some pain, which in turn may affect your sleep, mood, work, and ability to do the activities you enjoy or just those daily activities we all have to do.
Here we discuss several aspects of living with osteoarthritis, such as how to develop a programme of exercise for osteoarthritis, the impact of diet for osteoarthritis and how osteoarthritis products may be useful.
Living with osteoarthritis, or any condition which causes pain, can sometimes be challenging both physically and mentally.
There is lots of help for osteoarthritis in the form of counselling and advice on how to deal with pain. The NHS ‘living with pain’ section gives tips on how to manage pain, including relaxation techniques and how to access NHS services for osteoarthritis help. PainSupport also offer a summary of pain relief techniques that you may find work for you.
If you have mobility problems as a result of your osteoarthritis or are finding everyday tasks difficult, there are daily living aids for osteoarthritis that may help you.
Here, we include a guide to osteoarthritis aids to help with a variety of daily tasks that you may be finding difficult depending on where your pain is located.
PLEASE NOTE: our Expert Advice Service can only give advice about equipment and products which may help you to live more independently. They cannot give any advice on medications or treatments for symptoms of this condition.
Exercise helps to keep the body mobile by strengthening muscles and keeping joints flexible. It is important to try and exercise regularly, which can help reduce the risk of developing conditions such as osteoarthritis. If you have been given a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, it is important to undertake strength and aerobic exercise in order to strengthen the muscles, which in turn will help to stabilise your joints. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise as it does not put strain on joints since the water supports your weight.
If you are embarking on an exercise regime for the first time, or need some advice on how to exercise safely, we recommend discussing this with your GP.
If you are referred to a physiotherapy service, you are likely to be given specific osteoarthritis exercises to undertake several times a day, which will strengthen the muscles around the affected joints. Arthritis Research UK also describes a range of exercises to manage pain in specific areas of the body.
There is no specific diet for osteoarthritis, but it is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting more strain on your joints. Some people believe that healthy eating for osteoarthritis should involve consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. This is often a Mediterranean diet, including fish, fruit, vegetables, pulses, olive oil and nuts, which are all considered to have an anti-inflammatory component.
Some people also find that certain foods are osteoarthritis triggers, and report that eating, for example, a gluten-free or acid-free diet has reduced their pain. However, what works for one person does not necessarily work for another, and research does not yet confirm that these diets have an impact on the condition.
Some people also take supplements for osteoarthritis, including glucosamine, omega-3 or evening primrose oil. There is little evidence to support that these have an effect on the condition.
We recommend you speak to your GP before changing your diet or taking osteoarthritis supplements.
Many people diagnosed with osteoarthritis are able to work but may require reasonable adjustments to their working environment to help ensure they can carry out tasks safely and comfortably. You may need to take time off if the pain is hard to cope with. It is advisable to speak to your employer to let them know about your diagnosis. For more advice, visit the Versus Arthritis website.
We hope this guide to osteoarthritis has been helpful to you. We have covered many topics that may be useful to you if you have osteoarthritis, or know somebody who has the condition. There are lots of other places you can go to, to find further advice and support though. If you are concerned about anything you read in this guide to osteoarthritis, please discuss with your GP. If you are finding living with osteoarthritis challenging, you may find it useful to talk to other people in a similar situation and there is a selection of osteoarthritis support groups listed below that you may wish to join.
Our resources section provides other sources of information and osteoarthritis help. The Versus Arthritis website features a number of real-life stories.
Although we always try to explain things as simply and as clearly as possible, sometimes it’s necessary to use the correct medical terminology. Medical terms are often known for being tricky to pronounce and if you’re not an expert in the subject, they can also be a little difficult to understand. Below, we’ve put together a list of terms used on this page along with a brief explanation of what they mean to help make your understanding of osteoarthritis as straightforward as possible.
– a practitioner of acupuncture, which involves inserting needles into the skin and/or muscles to stimulate nerves
– a surgical procedure that aims to reconstruct joints, often using an artificial joint
– a surgical procedure that fuses bones together
– healthcare professionals that use spinal manipulations to relieve pain and restore spinal and muscular function
– when joints crunch, grind or creak due to arthritis or other conditions
Evening primrose oil
– a supplement made from flower seeds which is used to treat a variety of health complaints including inflammation
– found naturally in the joint cartilage and responsible for producing the fluid that keeps joints lubricated, this is also available as a nutritional supplement
– pain relief drug, part of the opioid family
– a drug used to treat inflammation of the muscles and joints, commonly prescribed for arthritis
– painful osteoarthritis of the finger joints, where they become very swollen for a few weeks at a time
– found naturally in foods but also available as a supplement, which is taken to lower blood pressure and reduce a build-up of plaque in arteries, as well as helping boost immunity and reduce inflammation of joints
– malformations in bones that appear as sharp spurs or points
– health professionals that look at the body as a whole system and treat particular health complaints by manipulating joints and the spine, whilst massaging tissue
– a surgical procedure that cuts and alters bones that have healed or grown incorrectly
– tissue in the joints that creates synovial fluid, which lubricates joints
– TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, and a TENS machine is a small device with electrodes that attach to the skin, and delivers electrical impulses to areas of the body that are painful, which reduces pain signals and relaxes muscles
– pain relief drug in the narcotic or opioid family