What is arthritis?

Joint pain is a very widespread complaint and it can cause considerable dysfunction, poor mobility, interrupted sleep, and reluctance to get out and about. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain.

Other common causes of joint pain can include infection in the joint, tendonitis, injury causing sprain, or inflammation of the cushioning structures around the joints (bursitis).

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term that covers more than 100 conditions of the joints, muscles and tendons surrounding the joints (the musculoskeletal structures). The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, gout and many others. The diagnosis will affect the medical treatments, but some physical treatments may be similar. A consultation with your General Practitioner is important if you are experiencing joint pains.

The common symptoms of any form of arthritis are pain, muscular aches and pain, swelling, redness and heat in a joint, stiffness and reduced movement and general feelings of tiredness and being unwell.

What can you do about arthritis?

Whilst arthritis cannot be reversed or fixed, there are a range of options to manage the signs and symptoms of arthritis. A multi-factorial approach which involves exercise and pain management strategies is the best approach to arthritis.

Your General Practitioner or medical professional can advise on judicious use of analgesic medication. In some cases, you may be referred to a specialist to discuss medications and other treatment options. The right amount of rest and a healthy balanced diet will also assist in the management of arthritis.

A psychologist can also assist if you are having problems with feeling anxious or depressed about the pain and other factors. The feeling of wellbeing helps with our ability to manage the pain whatever the cause. A physiotherapist can provide an individualised and safe exercise program.

Should I use heat of ice for arthritis?

Some people will ask about hot and cold packs for pain relief. If the joint is hot and swollen then a cold pack will sometimes help. A hot pack is often used for lower back and neck pain. If in doubt it is best to talk to your health professional.

What can I do for osteoarthritis?

With osteoarthritis, which is common in older age, especially in the hips and knees, it is important to know that it is never too late to start exercising with professional help to improve the pain, flexibility and mobility. Mobility aids will help many people walk in a regular pattern, add to their independence, and guard against instability and falls.

Learn more about arthritis in Episode 1 of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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