Back Pain

Arthritis: How to ease your joint pain and stay mobile

 

Whether you're experiencing a new joint pain or are living with arthritis, we've put together some help and advice to support your pain throughout the day. From common symptoms and causes to medication and drug-free treatment, read on for the latest pain relief support.

 

What is arthritis?

About 10 million people in the UK have arthritis*, a condition that causes painful joints and is often accompanied by changes in the shape of the joint.

There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, with osteoarthritis affecting at least 8 million people in the UK**. This type of arthritis is caused by wear and tear to joints, which can happen as we age. For general joint pain, scroll to the bottom for further joint pain advice.

 

When the cartilage between the bones in the joints becomes destroyed, the bones rub directly onto each other causing pain. The most commonly affected joints are the knees, spine, hips and hands.

Signs of osteoarthritis that you might notice are increased pain or stiffness when you haven't moved your joints in a while, along with a grating or cracking sound or sensation in your joints. Your joints may also appear slightly larger than usual and result in a limited range of movement.

A fault in the immune system causes the body to attack the joints causing pain and swelling. Flare ups are a common feature in this type of arthritis, and pain and stiffness may be worse in the morning.

Although rheumatoid arthritis also causes joint pain it doesn't have the same symptoms as osteoarthritis. It causes swelling and also redness around the joints (often starting in the hands and feet) along with extreme fatigue, that's more than just normal tiredness.

Osteoarthritis can initially be managed through lifestyle changes, such as exercise. When you do need a painkiller, the first choice tends to be paracetamol, often taken regularly for the full effect. If paracetamol isn't effective, you can try an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen. Topical NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen gel, are often useful for hand or knee arthritis. And corticosteroid injections into the joint are also sometimes used.

As well as painkillers, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis often involves medicines which tone down the immune system. If you're taking these you'll need to have regular blood tests and report any symptoms, such as a sore throat. NSAIDs are also commonly used to reduce swelling.

If you're prescribed a regular oral NSAID for arthritis, you may need to take some extra medication to protect your stomach. Just ask your pharmacist or doctor for more information.

 

What else you can do to help relieve joint pain?

Although strains and sprains can often be the cause of painful joints, there are other causes to watch out for, including cold weather, along with gout, bursitis and arthritis.

  • Take regular exercise - it helps build the muscles that support the joint, helping with pain. Choose gentle low impact exercises such as swimming and speak to your GP first if you're not used to exercise
  • Keep to a healthy weight - excess weight can put more stress on joints such as your knees
  • Pace your activities and don't do too much in one go
  • Keep warm - many people find their joints hurt more in the cold and wet, so keep well wrapped up
  • Alongside your painkillers you can also use a TENS* machine, like the LloydsPharmacy Joint Pain reliever, and other drug-free products, such as hot and cold packs.
 

Exercising with joint pain and arthritis

Having a healthy lifestyle, along with the right treatment or management can help to reduce joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the impact on your joints and staying active can help to improve the strength of your joints.

 
  • Cycling can give you a good workout, is gentle on your joints and you can enjoy it with all the family
  • Swimming is easy on the joints too and it also works all the muscles in your body, so can help keep you in shape too
  • Using weights or resistance bands can help boost the muscles around your joints, helping to make them stronger and more stable
  • Yoga or Pilates can also help strengthen your joints and maintain mobility

Don't forget, if you have arthritis, it's advisable to check with your GP before starting any new exercises.

Speak to your pharmacist or GP about joint pain if:

  • You have symptoms of arthritis but haven't been diagnosed
  • Your pain isn't controlled
  • You're on medicines to tone down your immune system and you get symptoms such as a sore throat - seek urgent advice as this may be a sign of a blood disorder
  • Your joint pain becomes worse
  • There are any changes in your condition
  • You regularly buy diclofenac or ibuprofen products

The cold can also make joint and muscles pain worse. Making sure that you wrap up warm during the winter months and ease aching joints with a hot bath or hot water bottle.

If your joint pain is stemming from an injury or strain, try to rest and apply a cold pack for 15-20 minutes every two-three hours during the day. You could also bandage it to contain swelling and keep it raised if possible. It's best to start using the joint soon to keep it mobile, but always see your GP if there's no improvement.

 

Resources

*NHS Choices
** https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/osteoarthritis.aspx

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