It’s estimated there are approximately 7.4 million people in England over the age of 45 with osteoarthritis.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in May 2022 saying a healthier lifestyle can help ease osteoarthritis symptoms. This is still very relevant news for the many people who suffer from arthritis, and it hopefully gives them the confidence to get back to doing the things they love and continue being active.
Both the knee and hip are complex, weight-bearing joints, comprised of multiple structures that support their primary function; first and foremost, they were designed to move.
Many people find their arthritis worsens in the cold weather. Your hands, feet, back, knees or hips can feel tender, stiff, sore or even ‘creaky’. If you have osteoarthritis, your joints can also feel inflamed and painful. Discover more about the most common form of arthritis and how you can help your joints:
What is osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and one of the leading causes of pain and disability worldwide.
It mainly affects the knees, hips and the small joints in the hand, so can drastically reduce your quality of life.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Both the hip and knee joints have a membrane capsule which surrounds it, ligamentous attachments for stability and cartilage to help with movement, cushioning and shock absorption. Both are surrounded by large muscle groups that further allow the range of movement they were meant for.
As part of daily living, your joints are exposed to a constant low level of damage. In most cases, your body repairs the damage itself and you do not experience any symptoms. In osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones starts to have permanent wear and tear which can cause symptoms of pain, swelling and stiffness. Bony spurs can also form which can feel like hard lumps around the joint and the joint lining and connective tissue can also be affected.
Who is most likely to develop osteoarthritis?
The risk of developing arthritis increases with age, with women being more likely to develop it than men, especially after the age of 50. Other risk factors include:
People who are overweight or obese
If you're overweight, you're more likely to develop arthritis, due to the extra stress on weight-bearing joints such as the hip or knee.
Smoking can affect the vascular supply to a joint contributing to cartilage damage and increasing the risk of developing arthritis. Smokers are more likely to experience severe joint pain compared to non-smokers.
Repeated stress on a joint
If your job or playing sport places repeated stress on a joint, you can develop arthritis. Heavy physical work can be a common occupational risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knees in particular. This is due to the amount of kneeling, stair climbing, crawling and bending involved in roles such as carpenter, floor or carpet layer and gardener.
Hand-arm vibration from heavy power tools can also cause wrist and elbow osteoarthritis as well as carpal tunnel injuries, circulation issues and problems with grip strength.
Any long-term injury to a joint can increase your risk of arthritis. Returning to physical activity before allowing an injury to a joint to fully heal, such as returning to sport or work too quickly, can encourage degenerative changes.
Some people inherit a tendency to develop osteoarthritis.
Five ways to ease your arthritis
1. Joint-friendly diet
Did you know that omega-3 oils found in oily fish could act as an anti-inflammatory on your joints? A Mediterranean-style diet which includes healthy oils (olive oil), wholegrains, nuts and vegetables can reduce your joint pain.
2. Take Vitamin D supplements or get some sunshine
During the winter months it is important to get enough vitamin D (600 IU daily). This can be achieved through your diet (found in egg yolk, cod liver oil and oily fish), going on walks in the sunshine or taking a supplement. Please consult your doctor before taking any vitamins. Vitamin D helps with healthy bone cartilage so if you have low levels of vitamin D you may experience more arthritic joint pain.
3. Keep warm
Having warm showers and baths, sleeping with an electric blanket, wearing compression gloves, or using heating pads on your joints can help to reduce your pain because it relaxes your muscles.
4. Take regular exercise
According to Dr Paul Chrisp, head of publishing and products at NICE: “…there is evidence which shows muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise can have an impact on not just managing the condition, but also providing people with an improved quality of life.” From brisk walking and jogging to yoga, swimming, and strength-training, exercising for 150 minutes at moderate intensity each week can help. Read our article to learn from our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Alex Chipperfield how exercise is good for wear and tear arthritis.
5. Stay within a healthy weight limit to reduce the amount of pressure on your joints
If you are overweight or obese, your joints are put under extra strain which can make your joints more painful. Even if you lose 10% of your weight, your symptoms of arthritis can be significantly improved.
How is arthritis treated?
One of your best friends in these circumstances will be a Physiotherapist, whose knowledge and experience leads them to identify the problem and the best course of action.
Your Physiotherapist may use a range of treatments to help manage your symptoms. These may include individually-tailored shockwave therapy, taping techniques and soft tissue mobilisations. They will also be able to guide you through lifestyle changes and management techniques so that you are able to deal with your symptoms going forward.
If you are planning on returning to a specific sport or activity then your physiotherapist will be vital in guiding you through the best exercises for you, the frequency and intensity of the exercises and participating in a phased and safe way to avoid reinjury or unnecessary aggravation.
Can I avoid developing arthritis?
The best chance of staying problem-free hinges on looking after yourself. It's not possible to precisely predict when an injury may occur or who will develop pain as they get older but you can help to maintain your strength and joint mobility, reducing the likelihood of injury.
- Live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet
- Take regular exercise
- Complete a warmup and cool down before doing any exercise
- Stay within a healthy weight limit to reduce the amount of pressure on your joints
Help and support to prevent and treat osteoarthritis
If you’ve been struggling with pain as a result of osteoarthritis, why not get fast access to a face-to-face private GP appointment via our online booking system or find out more about our private Physiotherapy treatments or tests and scans by completing our online enquiry form, contacting us via Livechat or by calling 01580 363158.
Published on 29 August 2023