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Arthritis is a painful condition that can get in the way of your everyday activities, but it can often be managed with appropriate treatment. We associate it with ageing, but it can actually affect people of all ages


What are the treatment options for different types of arthritis? 


Treatment for arthritis varies depending on the type of arthritis you have. You should first consult your GP who will help you arrive at the correct diagnosis. 


Osteoarthritis


Treatments for osteoarthritis include lifestyle changes, medicines and supportive therapies. In rare cases where treatments haven't helped, surgery may be an option. 


Regular exercise that keeps you active, fortifies muscles and strengthens your joints often helps improve symptoms. Other lifestyle changes such as maintaining or achieving a healthy weight can also help.


Consult your GP or pharmacist before treating your osteoarthritis. They may recommend medical treatments such as:


• Paracetamol

• NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen)

• Opioids (in serious cases – although these must be used with care and never for longer than three days unless specifically advised by your GP as they can be addictive)

• Capsaicin cream

• Steroid injections 


You may want to use supportive treatments in addition to lifestyle changes and medicines. Supportive treatments include: 


• Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which may help to numb your nerve endings and stimulate your body to provide endorphins that act as natural painkillers, through electrical impulses

• Hot or cold packs 

• Manual therapy (a treatment provided by a physiotherapist, which uses stretching techniques to help keep joints flexible)

• Assistive devices (such as a walking aid, splint or supportive footwear with shock absorbing soles) 


Rheumatoid arthritis 


Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated or managed with medicines, self-management methods and, in some cases, surgery. Your treatment will involve care from both your GP and healthcare specialists. Medicines that slow the disease and prevent joint deformity include disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).


You may be able to reduce the severity of your symptoms by taking painkillers or with a referral from your GP for physiotherapy. Regular exercise can also be beneficial.


 Can lifestyle changes help with symptoms?


There are many strategies you can use to manage your condition, to reduce your symptoms and stay healthy: 


Getting a proper diagnosis 


This is important when it comes to easing symptoms and keeping the condition from worsening. Scheduling regular appointments with your doctor and following your suggested treatment plan can help you manage your arthritis.


Regular exercise


 Being active is a simple way to help ease arthritis pain. Being physically active can reduce pain and improve mood and quality of life for those suffering from arthritis. Do activities that are easy on the joints, such as walking, cycling and swimming.


Manage your weight & eat a healthy and balanced diet


Shedding excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for those with arthritis. For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight lessens stress on joints, particularly hips & knees.


Learn self-management skills


Consider joining a self-management education workshop, which can help you acquire skills to manage your arthritis and make healthy decisions. Self-management skills can help you feel more in control of your health, reduce everyday stress and improve your mood. 


Next steps


• If you're experiencing joint pain or you think you might have symptoms of arthritis, make sure to visit your GP for a diagnosis

• If your doctor diagnoses you with arthritis, you can now consider which treatments may be most suitable for you. Your pharmacist will also be able to help with this

• Follow the treatment plan agreed with your GP or specialist, and make lifestyle improvements if necessary to improve your overall health

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