Painful and stiff joints don’t really describe the discomfort that arthritis sufferers experience every day. It can make the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted – cleaning your teeth or making a cup of tea – incredibly difficult. And the bigger things in life, like working, driving a car or cooking, often become impossible.
Arthritis is in the news at the moment because it is National Arthritis Week (October 12 to 19). A total of 8.5 million people in the UK have arthritis. Just over half of these have osteoarthritis of the knee, the most common form of this condition. Another four million have osteoarthritis in the hip, ankle and hand. They all struggle daily with the pain it causes and the limitations it poses on their lives.
Arthritis Research UK funds research to help improve knowledge on the prevention and treatment of arthritis. One of the current studies they are funding is research into whether a heart drug called spironolactone can help ease the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. This drug stops the body producing a chemical that causes inflammation, as well as increasing production of one of the body’s natural steroids.
Another trial being funded by Arthritis Research UK is testing how effective the drug methotrexate is in reducing the pain of osteoarthritis in the knee.
Methotrexate is used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis. While it is a different condition to osteoarthritis, they both involve inflammation. According to Professor Philip Conaghan, from the Leeds Institute of Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Medicine, and leader of the study, recent studies have suggested that inflammation causes pain in osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
Exercise is a vital part of treatment if you have OA, and can help keep you mobile, improves muscle strength and help you lose weight. Dr Nikki Walsh of the University of the West of England in Bristol, and Professor Mike Hurley of St George’s University in London, have created, and tested the effectiveness of a six-week exercise programme designed for older people with knee pain.
The results of the study (called ESCAPE) show that the exercise, self-management and active coping strategies in the programme were effective. They also found that it led to improvements in pain, general quality of life, anxiety and depression. The team hopes to have an online version of ESCAPE ready for testing in the next year.
*Osteoarthritis tends to appear from your late 40s.
*It is more common and severe in women, especially when in the knee and hand joints.
*Being overweight increases your chance of developing osteoarthritis, as does having a serious injury or operation on a joint. Arthritis UK says that an obese adult is 14 times more likely to suffer osteoarthritis. However, even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference.
*Taking some of the load off your affected knee can help prevent osteoarthritis getting worse. Using walking poles or walking with a cane can make a difference.