According to the NHS, around 10 million people in the UK suffer with some form of arthritis. Finding pain relief methods to suit your needs is key to managing the condition long term
Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe inflammation and pain of the joints, with osteoarthritis (affecting around eight million Britons) and rheumatoid arthritis (which affects around 400,000 people in the UK) being among the most common types. Other common types of arthritis include ankylosing spondylitis (a long-term inflammation of the spine) and gout, a condition caused by an excess of uric acid in the body.
Arthritis typically occurs in people over the age of 40, or in those with a family history of the condition. Arthritis tends to affect the neck, lower back, hips, hands, knees and feet and occurs because of a breakdown of the cushioning cartilage tissues nestled between the joints. Symptoms of the lifelong affliction include tenderness, stiffness and inflammation of the joints, restricted movement of the joints and weakened muscles. There is no single reason as to why some people develop these musculoskeletal conditions. Instead, says Arthritis Research UK, they can be caused by several igniting factors including infections, previous injury or trauma and physically demanding occupations—even smoking significantly increases the risk of developing arthritis.
While medical research in the field is ongoing, there’s currently no cure for most types of arthritis, which makes pain management a vital aspect of coping in the long-term.
Medicinal pain relief
Over-the-counter pain medications like paracetamol, co-codamol and ibuprofen may be used to ease arthritic pain. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including diclofenac, naproxen or indometacin to reduce inflammation, swelling and stiffness. In some cases, doctors may administer steroid injections into the affected joint itself or in the surrounding tissue to reduce redness and swelling and relieve pain, although this method usually offers only temporary relief.
Normally used in conjunction with traditional medicines, complementary therapies, like massages, osteopathy and chiropractic, may help to reduce arthritic pain and stiffness. Other popular therapies include acupuncture, where fine needles are inserted by a practitioner into pressure points in the body.
Hydrotherapy, which refers to the use of water in treating various medical conditions including arthritis, has been scientifically proven to improve the strength and general fitness of people with the condition.
Other non-traditional routes of remedy include homeopathy. Homeopathy practitioners prescribe small doses of herbal and natural substances to treat medical ailments and relieve symptoms. While much research has been carried out on the subject, there is still no substantial evidence to support the efficacy of this method.
Experts strongly advise that those with arthritis also keep up a regular exercise regime. Exercise, whether it be a light jog, swimming or yoga, increases the strength and flexibility that are crucial to pain management. The government advises 150 minutes—that’s 30 minutes, five times a week—of moderate exercise per week.
Visit Arthritis Care at bit.ly/2wFbejF to find out what support your area provides for arthritis sufferers, or call their helpline on 0808 800 4050
This article was originally published in Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones. Read the digitial edition, here.