Exercise can help ease symptoms of arthritis

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Tomorrow marks World Arthritis Day, which is part of a year-long campaign.

Sufferers can access a wealth of resources to help them deal with their condition and there are many small, easy to adopt changes, which make living with arthritis easier.

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints and bones. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and restricted movements of the joints, inflammation, swelling, warmth and redness of the skin over the joint.

More than nine million people in the UK suffer from arthritis.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of the disease but there are more than 200 different types of conditions that cause aches and pains in a person’s bones, joints and muscles.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people. It usually occurs in older people, developing in those who are over the age of 50.

It’s often caused by wear and tear, but not always. It can be the result of joint damage from an injury or the repair that occurs after the injury. For example, if cartilage has been removed from the knee, osteoarthritis almost always occurs in the knee afterwards.

Osteoarthritis usually occurs in the last joints of the fingers, at the base of the thumb, in the knees, big toes and feet. An injury at any stage in life can also cause arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe form of the disease. It causes damage to the immune system, aching pain in the joints and sometimes flu-like symptoms. It usually affects people aged 25 to 55 but can occur at any age.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis and symptoms will progressively get worse.

Painkillers are generally the first course of action. There are also creams and gels. In very extreme cases of osteoarthritis, surgical procedures can be undertaken to deal with the problem. Physiotherapy and regular exercise can also be used to alleviate symptoms.

As is the case with many chronic illnesses, simply keeping fit and healthy can decrease the severity of symptoms.

Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on joints, aggravating the problem. Exercising and stretching regularly can help nourish cartilage and strengthen muscles and tendons. Swimming is an ideal exercise as it is non-weight bearing.

Arthritis Care runs self-management programmes across the UK. Classes deal with a variety of issues such as pain management, diet and exercise. They are led by people who have arthritis or other long-term conditions. Visit arthritiscare.org.uk to find a class near you.

In the later stages of the disease, many people find it challenging to adapt at work, but there is a great deal of help available to support sufferers.

If your arthritis has a serious effect on your daily activities, discuss your options with your employer. The Equality Act states that your employer must make reasonable adjustments to your working conditions to accommodate the effects of your condition.

If you work in an office, ask about a workstation assessment. Simple changes such as a more supportive chair, a foot rest, or a desk at the right height can make a huge difference. If coping at the office is difficult, discuss the option of working more flexible hours, or from home.

If you think you may be suffering from arthritis you should seek advice from your GP. If you have been diagnosed, your GP may be able to refer you to an occupational health therapist.

For more information visit nhs.co.uk or worldarthritisday.org