Here are some of the common questions about arthritis we get asked.
What kind of arthritis do I have?
There are more than a hundred types of arthritis. Although they all feature joint pain and inflammation, they have a huge variety of causes and other symptoms. By far the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is localised to the joint. Other types of arthritis can have an inflammatory pattern of symptoms (pain and stiffness after rest, swelling, redness and warmth). If you have pain in multiple joints, or that is accompanied by other new symptoms such as eye or vision problems, breathlessness, fatigue, fever, digestive issues or rashes, you may have another form of arthritis. Get in touch with your GP for advice.
Does arthritis only affect the joints?
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, only involves joints. But many types of arthritis have more widespread effects in the body. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the lungs, heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves and salivary glands. Other types of arthritis are associated with inflammation in the eye (uveitis or conjunctivitis), rashes, fever, fatigue and feeling unwell.
Why is my arthritis worse in the morning?
Arthritic joints tend to be inflamed. Movement keeps fluids moving through joints. But when we rest, inflammatory fluids build up in the joint. This fluid makes the joint tight, meaning more pain and stiffness when we start to move it.
Is arthritis curable?
Some types of arthritis can resolve over time entirely, such as reactive arthritis. Others (like rheumatoid arthritis) will flare up periodically. Some will never completely go, but they can be managed with appropriate medication and lifestyle changes.
What are the treatment options?
Your options depend on what type of arthritis you have, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. Your GP may be able to prescribe medications to slow or halt the progress of the condition or manage the symptoms. For example, anti-inflammatory medications can ease an attack of gout, whereas long-term medication such as allopurinol is used to prevent further attacks.
While we can’t prevent all types of arthritis, there are changes we can make to reduce the risks or to help limit the symptoms. Smoking limits the healing ability of all body tissues and ceasing smoking will benefit joint health. Being overweight is strongly linked to many forms of arthritis, and to other conditions that are known risk factors, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
In general, staying active and exercising will help control the symptoms of arthritis. It can also enhance muscle strength to support your joints, maintain your joint mobility, improve your overall health and help manage your weight. The key is to exercise in a way that you enjoy, and to find a balance so you can manage your energy levels. A physiotherapist can work with you to tailor a plan to your needs.
Manual therapies, such as physiotherapy or osteopathy, can help maximise your joint function, encourage muscle health and strength, and manage pain levels with mobilisation or acupuncture. A physiotherapist or osteopath will also be able to support you and give advice on self-management. See our guide to osteoarthritis for more details on how we can help.
What else might help with my arthritis symptoms?
There are plenty of options to try that can help you manage your symptoms. Here are a few suggestions:
- Stay warm – many people find getting cold can aggravate their symptoms, so make sure to dress warmly when going out. Use gloves and hand warmers if you have arthritis in your hands. Try a hot-water bottle, electric blanket or microwaveable pillow in the house to stay cosy.
- Use ice therapy – soothe hot, inflamed joints with an ice-pack.
- Try compression gloves – compression can help support the joints of your hands, which can make daily activities easier.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods – such as turmeric, ginger, green tea, healthy oils, nuts and oily fish.
- Use a mindfulness app such as Insight Timer to help deal with pain.
Can Covid-19 give me arthritis?
Joint pain can be one of the symptoms of a Covid-19 infection. It’s thought to happen in a little under 15% of Covid-19 cases4. It’s also possible that infection with Covid-19 can aggravate your symptoms if you have pre-existing arthritis.
In most cases, the joint pain will resolve after the infection passes, although some people have longer term pain.
Our understanding of the long-term effects of Covid-19 is still developing. We know that viral infections can occasionally lead to arthritis. There are a few known instances of people with a Covid-19 infection developing a reactive arthritis, but these cases are very unusual.
It’s not clear whether Covid-19 directly causes pain in muscles and joints. It may be that people have pain and stiffness resulting from sitting or laying down more than usual while ill with Covid.
As with other forms of joint pain, the best approach is to stay as active as you reasonably can. Moderate exercise, within your limits, is essential to joint health and to combatting stress and depression.
If you’re not sure how to go about exercising, get some advice from a qualified physiotherapist. They’ll devise a plan that suits your needs and abilities.
Looking for help with your arthritis?
There are plenty of ways to help manage pain and stiffness. Our qualified and experienced team of therapists can offer manual therapy, nutritional therapy, acupuncture, massage and exercise planning, plus support, advice and guidance.
Don’t let arthritis bring you to a halt – book today and get back to being you!