Health and Wellbeing

Managing Arthritis

It’s often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis because the tissues of a joint begin to break down. This can lead to painful inflammation, stiffness in the joint, and limited mobility.

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Osteoarthritis causes degeneration of the cartilage lining of the joint causing bones to rub together leading to inflammation. Movement is more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.

As the lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments work harder causing swelling. It’s the most common form of arthritis and usually affects the hands, knees, lower back and hips.

Risk increases with age but joint overuse or injury, gender, metabolic health, and genetics are risk factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue, which leads to pain and swelling. It’s an autoimmune disease.

This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.

Symptoms of arthritis

This will vary depending on the type you have and that’s why it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis if you have:

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting

How to get relief from Arthritis

Recent research found that arthritis prevalence increased with age, body mass index, physical inactivity, and worsening physical and mental health.

Staying active, managing your weight, making changes to your diet and reducing stress are important to ease arthritis pain.

Manage your weight

Your weight can have a big impact on arthritis symptoms. Extra weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet.

Reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight can help:

  • improve your mobility
  • decrease pain
  • prevent future damage to your joints

Get enough exercise

Exercise can help your keep your joints flexible and strengthen muscles around your joints offering more support

Choose exercises that don’t put too much strain on your joints, and start at a safe level. If you begin to feel pain, change the activity so you can still stay active instead of stopping it altogether.

Low-impact, joint-friendly exercise include swimming, walking, cycling, and dancing. Experts also recommend muscle-strengthening exercises like lifting weights, using resistance bands, and yoga.

Yoga and other stretching exercises are good for improving your flexibility and range of motion, too.

Use hot and cold therapy

Heat and cold treatments can help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation.

  • Heat treatments can include taking a long, warm shower or bath in the morning to help ease stiffness and using an electric blanket or moist heating pad to reduce discomfort overnight.
  • Cold treatments can help relieve joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to painful joints for quick relief. Never apply ice directly to the skin.

Follow a healthy diet

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods can help boost your immune system and help reduce inflammation. The antioxidants help to protect cells from being damaged and lower inflammation.
  • Healthy Fats monounsaturated (olive oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated (mackerel, sardines, salmon and walnuts) fats may keep osteoarthritis from getting worse.

Add turmeric to dishes which contains curcumin. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests it may help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.

Foods to limit

The Arthritis Foundation recommend limiting foods high in:

  • Saturated fats, such as red meat, butter and cheese. Consumption of saturated fats is linked to inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health problems.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids, a type of healthy, polyunsaturated fat that can be found in corn, sunflower, and soy oil possibly worsens osteoarthritis symptoms.
  • Trans fats, which can be found in fried and processed foods, and many baked items. Trans fats should be avoided as often as possible. Diets high in trans fats have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease and other illnesses.

These foods can also contribute to other health conditions, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and increase inflammation.

Stress management

Finding helpful ways to manage stress is important for everyone, especially those with osteoarthritis.

When you’re stressed, your heart rate goes up and your muscles get tense. Over time, tense muscles can make your joint pain worse. Stress also increases inflammation.

The Arthritis Foundation recommend deep breathing practices and a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to reduce stress.

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