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Five tips to manage Osteoarthritis

Page history last edited by Ann Vipond 5 years, 4 months ago



Treating the cause as well as the symptoms can go a long way to reducing your pain.


Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis usually develops gradually, over time. Several different joints can be affected, but it is most frequently seen in the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine.

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but the condition may settle down after a number of years.


That pain and stiffness in your joints caused by osteoarthritis can tend to be difficult to manage, especially when symptoms affect your ability to do daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, writing and opening bottles. But you’re not alone.


In the UK alone, 8.75 million people in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis.* This means: 33% of people aged 45 years and over. 49% of women and 42% of men of those aged 75 years and over. It can appear at any age, but tends to occur more in women and in people aged over 40 years, or those who have had severe joint injuries.


What causes it?


There is no one cause for osteoarthritis, but some risk factors include:

Age - osteoarthritis becomes more likely with increasing age and is less common before the age of 40.

Genetics - there may be a genetic link showing the tendency to run in families, but osteoarthritis  is not directly inherited.

Gender - osteoarthritis is more common in women.

Weight - being overweight or obese increases the risk of osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee.

Injury - an injury to the bone or ligaments, fracture, infection, operation, earlier disease or repeated strain at a joint may lead to osteoarthritis later in life.


What happens?


Osteoarthritis develops when changes in cartilage (soft tissue that protects the bone surface) affect how joints work: 

Cartilage becomes pitted, rough and brittle

Underlying bone thickens and broadens to reduce load on cartilage

Bony outgrowths form at the outer edges of the joint making it look knobbly

Synovial membrane and joint capsule thicken, and the space inside the joint narrows

This leads to a stiff joint, which is painful to move and sometimes inflamed

Sometimes part of the cartilage can break away from the bone leaving the bone ends exposed.  These may then rub against each other and the ligaments become strained and weakened.  This causes a lot of pain and changes the shape of the joint.


The Effects of Osteoarthritis


It is a condition which develops over time.  Changes will be slow and subtle in some people, whereas in others the pain and stiffness will gradually worsen until the disease process finishes.  At this point, the joints will look rather knobbly, but are usually far less painful and in some cases they become pain free.


How is it treated?


There are a number of things which can help to relieve the symptoms, especially the pain.

A GP may prescribe one (or more) of the following types of drugs:


analgesics (painkillers) which relieve pain

non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which reduce inflammation and, in turn, pain

steroids, which also reduce inflammation, and can be directly injected into a joint for fast relief


A referral to an orthopaedic surgeon may be needed if there is severe arthritis affecting weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips.  Joint replacements should give no problems for 10-15 years or longer if they are treated carefully.


What else can be done?


Some of the following may help to relieve pain and help with mobility:  



While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, regular exercise can instead prevent stiffness in the joints as well as stimulate circulation and healing. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or yoga, is gentle on the joints while providing maximum health benefits.


Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for strong bones and is more likely to be lacking in people who take oral corticosteroids. Because those with osteoarthritis are often prescribed oral steroids, it’s very important to ensure that your vitamin D levels are regularly checked. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption for optimal bone and muscle function. A vitamin D3 deficiency may impact bone health and lead to an increase in falls and fractures. Speak to your healthcare practitioner who can recommend a suitable vitamin D3 supplement.



Your diet alone will not ‘fix’ osteoarthritis. However, there are changes you can make that may ease your symptoms. If you have osteoarthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state, so it is essential to avoid inflammatory foods such as sugars and processed foods. Instead, include healthy fats such as fish, grass-fed/pastured animals, eggs, nuts and avocados. Eating regular small meals, eating more protein, and consuming less simple carbohydrates (like processed white breads) can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Maintaining balanced blood sugar helps to facilitate proper circulation and appropriate healing mechanisms in the body.



The ancient spice turmeric, also known as curcumin, has natural anti-inflammatory qualities and is showing increased promise in joint inflammation. People living in India first used turmeric as an ingredient in curry and later on discovered that it has impressive medicinal qualities. Turmeric can easily be added to your diet. Its roots and bulbs look quite similar to ginger and are generally boiled and dried to form powder. You can grate it like ginger on your foods, add it to teas or take it as a supplement. Readily available powder form is also generally found in supermarkets and health food stores.


Herbal remedies

More osteoarthritis patients are seeking herbal remedies to take a natural approach than ever before. Certain herbs, such as curcumin which we just spoke about, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with osteoarthritis, as well as the ability to reduce pain in all forms of the condition. Certain types of omega-3 can also reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis and may help to relieve joint pain and stiffness. Chondroitin sulphate may also help to reduce pain by helping to slow down the degradation of cartilage and restoring lost cartilage. Supplementing with amino acids (protein), which are essential building blocks for cartilage in your body, would also be helpful.

Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about managing your osteoarthritis.


Information supplied by Stephanie Berglin and Arthritis Research UK 

Useful References:









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