In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or similar conditions that affect the joints. Osteoarthritis causes a breakdown of the tissue that cushions where bones meet to form a joint. This breakdown leads to the bones to rubbing together, causing pain, inflammation and swelling.
Whilst there are many different reasons why someone may suffer from arthritis, one cause of tissue breakdown is mechanical stress from excess weight on the knees or other joints. The knees and other joints in the lower half of the body, such as the hips, bear the most load. It therefore stands to reason that years of carrying excess weight can lead to stiff, aching, arthritic joints.
Reduce Pain & Improve Function Recent research documented in the National Institute of Health shows that weight loss of 20% can help reduce arthritis-related knee-pain in people who are overweight or obese. In a randomized controlled trial, weight loss from both diet and exercise reduced pain and inflammation and helped adults walk faster and function better. Not only does losing weight reduce the pain in the joints, it also appears to improve the function.
Reduce inflammation It is now well-known that arthritis is closely linked to inflammation in the body. Being obese or overweight causes systemic inflammation, as does the highly processed foods associated with poor diets. By improving the diet to include plenty of whole foods, healthy fats and plants, you are also supporting your body in reducing inflammation.
How can you lighten the load? Healthy eating and exercise are the best way to ensure you can meet an ideal weight for your body to function at its best. Many people feel overwhelmed with the idea of giving their diet a complete overhaul, however just making a few small changes can make a big difference;
Aim to reduce snacking and ensure your main meals are filling enough to sustain you
Research shows simply reducing the number of hours you are eating per day can help you lose weight – having periods of regularly fasting for 12–16 hours (e.g. overnight) may dramatically impact body weight.
Aim to eat 8 portions of vegetables & fruit per day – you are more likely to eat less processed food if you focus on wholefoods
Get Moving Exercise can be difficult if you already have arthritis – therefore taking the weight off by using the swimming pool can be helpful. Water aerobics, swimming and walking laps can be a great way to get your body moving. The water not only creates resistance to activate your muscles, but also allows your body to float, taking the pressure off the joints which cause you pain.
As with many things in health, prevention is the best treatment. Protect your joints long-term by losing weight when you can still be active. Seeking support from professionals such as Personal Trainers, Chiropractors or Nutritional Therapists can also help you get the best personalised advice for your own weight loss and arthritis journey.
Feeling better overall Losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle goes so much further than reducing knee pain. After losing weight through diet and exercise, study participants also reported an improved quality of life that went beyond the specific joints causing pain.
Suffering with arthritis can be hugely life changing but there are ways in which can help ease the pain. Making some simple lifestyle changes may help alleviate some of the strain.
There are many misconceptions around arthritis, one being that it only affects older people. Anyone with the condition will have heard that this isn’t the case. But the other thing about arthritis is that the symptoms can change as we age. The question is, what can you expect as an arthritis sufferer, and what steps can you take to minimise any disruption it may cause.
Arthritis and age According to the stats, arthritis is more common in people 65 years and over. But nearly two-thirds of sufferers are under 65. The truth is it can affect children, young adults, men, and women. When it comes to gender, women are more commonly affected. But actually, it’s a fairly indiscriminate condition.
So, if you’re thinking that your arthritis is only due to your age, that’s not necessarily the case. At the same time, arthritis can change over the years. So, if you’re getting used to the ways it is currently impacting your day to day, it’s worth having a full understanding of what might happen over the years, so you can actively manage it.
How symptoms can change One of the more painful conditions that can affect us as we age is osteoarthritis or OA. But aside from the physical effects of painful joints, research hints that older people have a different perception of pain from younger people too. So, you might feel your arthritic pain more acutely as you age.
That doesn’t mean that you have to suffer in silence, however. There are ways to manage any increase in pain. The first and most important step is to speak to your doctor about pain management. They will be able to advise on suitable medications and activities to help you reduce the sensation of painful joints.
Ways to manage your arthritis From a practical point of view, you can take action yourself as well. This isn’t about sidestepping the doctor’s visit and relying on home remedies. But more of a way of tweaking your lifestyle to accommodate your arthritis and avoid it taking control of you.
Look into suitable exercises – you will need to speak to your doctor about suitable exercises, but just be aware that the NHS advises that an active lifestyle can actually help. Despite physical activities often being more difficult, you can find the right level and type of exercise to complement your lifestyle and feel better.
Think about your diet – a balanced diet is always a good idea, but through eating a range of the right kinds of foods, you can feel healthier, and reduce any pressure on joints by getting rid of any extra pounds.
Modify your home – when daily tasks like bathing are a chore, it’s easy to feel despondent. But modifications to your home could be a great way of getting around this. Walk-in baths and showers are just one solution that could drastically improve your everyday life.
Whatever your age or the type of arthritis you have, it’s important to remember that there is help out there. And there are ways to work around it and live a full life. It’s all about getting the right support, the best information, and a good understanding of how and why it’s affecting you. From there, you can tackle the issue head-on, for the better.
For people with arthritis, carrying out day-to-day tasks is far from easy – in fact, very often attempting basic tasks can be both difficult and painful.
Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or you have been living with arthritis for some time, there are many ways that the condition can impact your life from swelling and pain in your joints to sleeping problems, general exhaustion and reduced flexibility.
If you’re wondering whether there’s anything you can do differently to make things easier or reduce your pain, read on.
The power of exercise If you suffer with painful arthritis, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But hear us out – according to the NHS, maintaining an active lifestyle can actually help many people to reduce and prevent the pain caused by arthritis. What’s more, it can also help to improve your flexibility and range of movement, give you an energy boost, reduce any stiffness in the joints and improve your muscle strength.
We’re not suggesting you enter a marathon or compete in a weight-lifting challenge – but providing you stick to the correct level and type of movement, exercising certainly won’t make your arthritis any worse. It could even help!
Eating a healthy diet When it comes to meals, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to improve the symptoms of arthritis. Whether you choose to follow this specific eating plan or simply give your overall diet a makeover, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is vital if you have arthritis. Eating the ‘right’ foods will provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy weight.
And if you are currently heavier than you should be, it’s a good idea to try to lose a little weight. This will reduce the amount of extra pressure being put on the joints in your knees, hips, feet and ankles. Reducing this pressure should help to reduce pain and improve your mobility levels.
It’s important to eat a range of foods from each of the five food groups:
Vegetables and fruit
Starchy foods (e.g. potatoes, rice, pasta and bread)
Protein-rich foods like fish, meat, beans and eggs
Dairy products such as milk and cheese
Healthy fats and sugar
Taking up a new hobby It’s a sad fact that having arthritis sometimes means people can find it more difficult to keep up with hobbies or interests that they enjoy. Activities like painting, playing the piano and even cookery or baking can often become a real struggle. But even if this is the case for you, there are still ways you can participate in the activities you enjoy – or you could start a brand-new hobby. Here are a few ideas:
Music: If you’ve always enjoyed playing music but you no longer have the manual dexterity to play the piano, guitar or another favourite instrument, there are plenty of other ways to feed your love for music. Percussive instruments like chimes and bells are a good option, or you could join a local choir group if you like singing. Best of all, taking part in a group activity such as an orchestra or choir gives you a great opportunity to meet new people, socialise and have fun – so it’s a great boost for your mental health, too.
Art & Craft Activities: When it comes to art, the possibilities are endless. If you’re no longer able to paint intricate scenes, there are still ways you can enjoy crafting. Why not ask a family member or friend to give you a hand if you need some ideas to get started?
Dancing: It’s fair to say that some styles of dancing probably will be tricky if you have arthritis. But dancing styles such as line dancing or ballroom dancing can still be an option. Have a chat with your GP to find out which types of dancing (or exercise in general) they think would suit you best.
Caring for your joints When you have arthritis, looking after your joints is the best way to prevent any further damage. The NHS suggests trying the following ideas to protect your joints:
Try to use your bigger and stronger joints as levers – for example, if you need to open a heavy door, try to take the pressure on one of your shoulders, instead of your hand
When carrying heavy items like shopping bags, use more than one of your joints to spread the load. Alternatively, use a rucksack worn on both shoulders.
Avoid gripping things too tightly. Use the loosest grip possible or try using a padded handle which will help to widen your grip.
Try not to sit in the same position for too long and move around as much as you are able to.
Small changes you can make at home A few practical changes at home can make a huge difference in your quality of life:
Keep items that you use regularly close by so that you can get them easily
Fit levers to taps in the bathroom and kitchen to make them easier to use
Update some of your kitchen equipment with electronic versions, for example, an electric tin opener
If you are living with arthritis and struggling to carry out your daily activities, it is always worth arranging an appointment to discuss your concerns with your GP. Don’t suffer in silence – your doctor may be able to refer you for treatment with an Occupational Therapist or prescribe a different medication to you.
The diagnosis of arthritis can be difficult and may cause those diagnosed to feel isolated or alone. Friends and family often form a major support network for arthritis sufferers, so understanding how to best care for your loved one can be instrumental in a more positive approach to their condition. The early stages following initial diagnosis can be the hardest time, so easing the transition to a more manageable lifestyle quickly can be a great source of improved wellbeing.
What you should know The first step toward helping to care for your loved one with arthritis is understanding the effects of the condition. There are a number of variations of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout. Each experience differing levels of discomfort or pain and limitations with mobility. Understanding how a particular condition affects your family or friend can make it easier to support them.
One of the best ways to understand which of these symptoms they are experiencing is to discuss their limitations or how it affects their day to day activities. This will then help you to find ways which offer the most support that caters to their needs.
How to assist physically Depending on how much your loved one is restricted by their arthritis will determine how much assistance they may require physically. Common issues the condition causes include limited ability to bend, kneel, walk, and reach as joints are a key area affected by arthritis. A few ways that you can help your family or friend to ease the burden of arthritis include:
Encouraging them to be as active as possible. Gentle movements such as non-strenuous walking, water-based activities or, in general, just keeping up and about helps to maintain Sedentary behaviour can contribute to a further reduction in mobility.
Offering to assist with activities that may be affected by their arthritis. This could be anything from assisting with household chores and shopping to helping them with transport.
Helping with making sure they are eating a healthy and balanced diet with appropriate portion sizes. Pain may deter people from maintaining a healthy eating schedule and diet.
Assisting them in taking their medication which can help make the pain more manageable and reduce symptoms of their arthritis, providing a more comfortable quality of life.
Helping them to make adjustments around the home that will make getting around easier. Changes could include new seating for more comfortable reading and computer use or investing in a digital assistant such as a Google Home.
How to assist emotionally There is more to assisting your loved one than physical help. A big part of supporting them is by letting them know you’re there for them emotionally too. Open communication between yourself and the person you care for is instrumental in the management of their arthritis. Here are a few ways you can help emotionally:
Let them know you’re there for them, showing you care and vocalising your support is key.
If you suspect they are depressed, encourage them to talk to their GP about management options. If they’re comfortable with you attending with them, it can provide additional support and encouragement.
Help them to remain positive and enthusiastic about the mobility and abilities they still have.
Work with them to find a new hobby or interest if activities they previously participated in are now difficult.
Remind them to ask for extra help if they need it, let them know they aren’t a burden and you’re there to assist.
By working on a relationship of trust and support, caring for your loved one will be easier as they will feel more comfortable to ask for the assistance they need. Accepting the limitations associated with arthritis and discovering new interests and opportunities are made better with a solid support network. Showing your loved one you’re there for them both physically and emotionally will make navigating their condition easier. Understanding how arthritis affects their life will encourage a stronger relationship for both of you.
Inflammation and arthritis can be uncomfortable at the best of times, but have you noticed your joint pain is worse at night? If inflammation is affecting your quality of sleep, it’s important to address it as soon as possible to avoid additional issues related to sleep deprivation.
Understanding what causes your inflammation and how you can manage or reduce its effects can be instrumental in improving the quality of your sleep and overall health. We look at a few ways you can help reduce how inflammation affects your sleep with these tips.
What causes inflammation? Inflammation is caused by a chemical response from your body’s immune system to protect it from infections, injuries and toxins. It fights anything your body may be under attack from, sending proteins, antibodies and blood flow to the site. While in the short term this protection is an advantage, when the inflammation lingers long term the result is painful and uncomfortable. Symptoms can range from fatigue and fever to acute pain. Arthritis is a common cause of inflammation and pain, especially as we age.
How inflammation at night affects sleep and overall health Inflammation can become more noticeable at night when you are trying to sleep. If you are finding that falling asleep is difficult due to pain or you’re waking throughout the night, it is worth considering how to improve your sleep situation. The effect of diminished sleep quality can be tough on the body and can cause problems such as fatigue, stomach issues and headaches among other symptoms.
You should be getting 7-8 hours of good sleep each night. If you aren’t getting your forty winks, you might be suffering from the signs of sleep deprivation, both physically and mentally. A lack of sleep can reduce our tolerance for pain, affect cognitive function and create new issues for us. If you aren’t getting a decent night’s sleep due to pain or inflammation, it could be creating a vicious cycle that is making it hard for you to find relief.
Use heat therapy Heat works to relieve inflammation by increasing blood flow and makes connective tissue more flexible. It also helps to reduce the build-up of fluid in tissue which is a key cause of inflammation. Opt for a bath before bed, remembering to give yourself time to cool before sleeping, or apply a heat pad to the joints affected by inflammation for 15-20 minutes before bed.
Review your mattress Mattresses are a big part of good sleep hygiene and should be reviewed and changed roughly every 7-10 years. A good mattress should be supportive, especially for those with arthritis, however a mattress that is too hard will quickly become uncomfortable. Short of investing in a new mattress, you may benefit from a mattress topper that will aid a more supportive sleep environment.
Use pillows Those suffering from arthritis may find using pillows as a wedge next to you or between your knees may help to relieve some of the pain, especially around the hips and knees. For those with arthritis in the neck, choosing a supportive but not too firm or high may provide a more comfortable night’s sleep.
Exercising and stretching Staying active and keeping your body moving is a big factor in reducing joint pain. Joints are meant to be moved and become stiff and painful when immobile for longer periods of time. Keep as active as possible whether it’s by walking, practising yoga which is great for maintaining muscle tone or swimming which is ideal for those who find weight bearing exercises painful. Increased range of motion will help ward off pain in your arthritis-affected joints.
Practice good sleep hygiene Inflammation can be made worse by sleep deprivation and fatigue as it increases stress on the body when we aren’t well rested. Ensure you are implementing a good sleep routine by creating bedtime habits including:
Going to bed and rising at the same time each day.
Avoiding screens at least one hour before you go to bed. Blue light from screens has a big impact on our circadian rhythm.
Limit your daily caffeine intake and avoid caffeine after 2pm.
Avoid large meals within 2-3 hours before bed.
Establish a pre-bed routine that may involve some meditation or relaxing habits that will help calm the mind before sleep.
Consider night time pain relief If other alternative methods of relief are not helping or you are still struggling to reduce your pain at night you may benefit from considering some pain relief before bed. It is best to discuss these options with your doctor before taking any medications to find the most suitable option for you.
If you are experiencing better quality sleep, you’ll notice improved mental and physical ability with everyday tasks. By following the tips above, we hope you find a reduction in the affect inflammation is having on your sleep.
Have you found an element of your bedtime routine has helped reduce the effect arthritis and inflammation has on your sleep? If so, let us know in the comments what has worked well for you.
Living with arthritis can be a painful experience. Not only may you feel physically limited, but it can also contribute to negative emotions. With that in mind, it’s important to know that there are ways to help alleviate the symptoms and better your quality of life.
The key is knowing the truths about arthritis. Often, it’s a misunderstood condition, but the better informed you are, the more equipped you’ll be to get the most out of each day. To help, here’s a rundown on the common myths around the condition, and the facts everyone should know.
What is arthritis? Did you know that arthritis us one of the most common health conditions in the world? So, to say you’re not alone is an understatement. It affects approximately 10 million people in the UK of all ages, although it usually becomes apparent in people over 40.
So, if you’re 65 or over, you’re certainly not in the minority in suffering from arthritis. If you’re not sure whether you have arthritis or not, some common signs include:
Joint stiffness, often in the wrists, hands, and knees
Swelling or pain in the joints
A general sense of onset illness
If you’re concerned about any of these symptoms, the first step is to visit your GP, rheumatologist or orthopedic specialist. They’ll usually conduct a physical examination and a health evaluation, which will consist of a series of questions. You may also be referred for an X-ray.
Myths on arthritis Perhaps one of the most unhelpful things around arthritis, are the myths that come hand-in-hand with it. Debunking those and getting clued up on the facts is the fastest route to finding both curable treatments and developing coping methods for day-to-day life.
It only affects old people – arthritis can affect people of all ages. There are different types of arthritis, some of which are more prevalent in specific groups. But it can affect anyone from children to older people.
Wet, cold climates aggravate it – despite the long-standing myth that weather triggers arthritis, it’s actually more about creating warmth, which can be soothing. You can do this with a warm bath or shower. Or even a hot water bottle.
Diet affects it – arthritis isn’t a condition caused by poor diet. Likewise, healthy eaters aren’t immune to arthritis. That said, it’s always good to watch your diet and eat well. By looking into different food options, you can modify your diet for the better.
It’s curable – Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for arthritis. That doesn’t mean the picture is bleak, however. There are many ways to manage it to slow the onset and relieve pain.
Perceptions of whether you look good, or doomed! – if you have arthritis, you may face opinions on how well you look from others. In truth, sometimes you may look good while suffering from a general feeling of unwellness or fatigue. Or you may be visibly struggling, but that doesn’t mean that solutions aren’t out there.
Taking charge of arthritis There are changes you can make to your lifestyle to help. Exercise is one useful way to improve arthritis. By finding a specific healthcare professional or a class specialising in arthritis-friendly movements, you can boost your mobility, health, and positivity.
You may also want to look into ways to adapt your home. By creating living spaces that aid you in your daily life, you’ll actively be boosting your independence.
Why we need to debunk the myths Being informed, sharing your knowledge with those close to you, and finding ways to manage your arthritis are all important steps to improving your quality of life. Continuing to debunk the myths and opinions that come with arthritis is just part of it.
Ultimately, being honest with yourself and others in terms of what support you need, and finding ways to manage arthritis, you can take charge of your situation. In turn, it will increase your independence and boost your self-esteem.