Osteoathritis is a condition which causes pain and swelling to joints in the body. In the UK it is thought around 8 million people suffer from the condition. It is more common in women and in people who have had a family history of osteoarthritis however it can also be caused by a previous injury or other joint related conditions like gout.
Osteoarthritis starts by affecting the smooth lining of the joint called cartilage, which is there to protect the bones from damage. This means the movement within the joint becomes more difficult than usual, which causes pain and stiffness. Once the cartilage is damaged and thinned out the tendons and ligaments which work the joint have to work much harder and can pull the joint unevenly. This causes swelling and the formation of little extra bits of bone called osteophytes. Eventually the space between the joint will narrow which means bone will rub on bone.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis but there are medications which can help reduce the swelling and thus the speed in which the joint deteriorates.
Our Top 10 suggestions for easing osteoarthritis (and preventing it!):
- Diet – some research suggests that changing your diet can help control symptoms and the speed in which further joint destruction occurs. Eat a balanced and varied diet to get all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients you need.
A more Mediterranean-style diet which includes fish, pulses, nuts, olive oil and plenty of fruit and vegetables
More omega-3 fatty acids, for example from oily fish.
- Exercise will keep the joints supple and prevent pain, swimming is a particularly good form of exercise because you are supported within the water.
- Pace your activities through the day – don’t tackle all the physical jobs at once. Break the harder jobs up and do something more gentle in between.
- Wear low-heeled shoes with soft, thick soles (trainers are ideal). Thicker soles will act as shock absorbers for your feet, knees, hips and back. High heels will alter the angle of your hips, knees and big toe joints and put extra strain on them.
- Use a walking stick to reduce the weight and stress on a painful hip or knee.
- Use the handrail for support when climbing stairs – this is particularly important if you have osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Think about modifying your home, car or workplace to reduce unnecessary strain on your joints. There are lots of different gadgets that will make your daily tasks easier.
- Apply warmth to a painful joint to help ease pain and stiffness. This can be helpful if you have a flare-up of pain when you’ve done a bit too much.
- Losing weight and reducing pressure on the joint can help slow down the process of destruction.
- Painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as ibruprofen are prescribed to help reduce the swelling in the joint. Ibruprofen gel can be applied directly to the joint to reduce inflammation and pain.
10th-17th October is National Arthritis Awareness week and the National Arthritis Research UK team have lots more information on the condition and help available HERE.