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More than 10 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis pain¹
Arthritis is a catch-all term for many different types of joint pain or joint disease - there are over 100 recognised types of arthritis and related conditions. It’s a word used to describe the feeling of stiffness, swelling and pain that occurs in joints throughout the body.
Although frequently thought of as a condition that affects older people, arthritis pain affects people of all ages, including children. In fact, approximately 15,000 children and young people in the UK live with arthritis.
The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many other related conditions.
This is the most prevalent form of arthritis, affecting almost nine million people in the UK. It usually develops in people beyond the age of 45 and is more common in women and those with a family history of the disease. It can, however, occur at any age due to injury or when linked to other joint-related conditions like gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
The condition affects the cartilage lining of a joint and starts to break it down. In the case of severe loss of cartilage, bone will start to rub directly onto bone, changing the shape of joints and shifting the position of bones. Osteoarthritis is commonly the cause of joint pain in:
Rheumatoid arthritis pain
Much less common in the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 400,000 people2. It usually manifests in people between the ages of 40 – 50 and is three times more likely to effect women than men.
The condition causes the body’s immune system to target joints, leading to pain, swelling and – in severe cases – to a change in the joint’s shape. This, in turn, can lead to a breakdown of the bone and cartilage. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis also find that they develop problems with the tissues and organs in their body.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Some of the more well-known are:
The most common symptoms of arthritis are pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, which restricts movement. Other symptoms are tender, red skin over the joint as well as weakness or muscle wasting. Arthritis tends to get worse over time, although the level and speed of the progression differs from person to person.
Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain. It can make simple daily activities like walking or holding cutlery painful and difficult. When the condition is severe, it can affect permanent changes, to the joints and also the heart, lungs, eyes, kidneys and skin.
Arthritis pain is called arthralgia. For some sufferers, arthralgia feels like a dull ache, others describe it as more of a burning pain. Typically, arthritis pain starts after the joint has been used a lot, perhaps after gardening or typing for prolonged periods. Some people suffering with arthritis experience tenderness first thing in the morning, when their joints are stiff after sleeping. Others report feeling achy when it rains or the levels of humidity change.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, several treatments can help to slow it down, and to alleviate and manage your pain.
While a long-term condition, osteoarthritis does not have to get progressively worse, and occasionally it can even improve if those with the condition are able to take steps to manage mild symptoms. This might mean:
Arthritis pain management
Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, but its progress can be slowed, and arthritis pain can be managed at home. Doctors are able to prescribe DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) to ease the symptoms of the disease and biological treatments given by injection. Or steroids and over-the-counter painkillers. Unfortunately, however, all of these treatment methods have side effects and can be addictive.
Some less invasive treatments have been shown to help rheumatoid arthritis pain. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry and acupuncture. More recently, innovative technology like BioWaveGO have been clinically proven to offer relief from pain caused by arthritis by blocking pain signals to the brain.