Osteoarthritis nation – don't be a pain statistic

In this new survey, 44 per cent of sufferers said they did no exercise at all, yet 87 per cent of those who exercised said they felt the benefit.

A new survey this week, commissioned by the charity Arthritis Care, reveals that 8.5 million people within the UK have osteoarthritis (OA). Of these, more than seven out of 10 are in some form of constant pain due to their OA.

Perhaps more worrying still, is that the number of people in the UK affected by this painful joint condition looks set to double in the next 20 years. ‘-itis’ is the medical word for inflammation (think ‘tonsillitis’ or ‘appendicitis’) and arthritis means inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and symptoms happen when our bodies aren’t able to repair all the normal damage on our joints and joint tissues from wear and tear. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and reduced movement, which is often worse in the mornings.

Some of this increase in the number of sufferers is unavoidable – as a nation our life expectancy is increasing year on year, and wear and tear on the joints increase with age. But as we get fatter as a nation, the extra stress on our joints means more and more younger people developing symptoms of osteoarthritis. The average age at diagnosis is 57, and one in five sufferers are now under 45.

Unfortunately, all too many sufferers of OA worry that exercise will damage their joints, even though all healthcare professionals agree that exercise is one of the best treatments for OA.  A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of obesity still further, with a vicious cycle of increasing weight and increasing pain.

Painkillers, physiotherapy and sometimes walking aids or home adaptations are available on the NHS to treat the symptoms. The NHS also offers help with keeping weight under control, but most of the hard work has to be down to you rather than your doctor. Some complementary medicines may also help. Glucosamine and chondroitin are a popular combination which does seem to help some people, although a recent review of the studies has sparked debate about how effective they are.

More recently, there have been promising results in studies on GOPO®, a compound isolated from rosehips. For instance, in one study comparing GOPO® with placebo, eight out of 10 OA sufferers reported an improvement in their symptoms on treatment with the ‘real thing’. You can buy it as LitoZin®, but it’s not available on NHS prescription. We don’t know if all rosehip preparations provide the same benefits.

At present, the costs to both patients and society are high with one in five sufferers having to give up work or retire early, losing an average 7.8 years of their working life. Arthritis Care hopes their new survey will raise awareness about this important condition, and help sufferers to seek the help they need to take control of their own condition. For expert support and advice on safe, effective lifestyle changes and treatment, visit www.arthritiscare.org.uk or call free on 0808 8004050.

YouGov (May 2012) OA Nation Survey.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.