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Five things you should know about osteoarthritis

If you’re overweight, you could be at high risk of developing osteoarthritis. Here are some key facts that could help you identify the problem.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, with GPs seeing around 1 million cases every year. Affecting joints such as knees, hips, hands and the spine this condition can cause intense levels of pain and seriously restrict your movement, so it’s key to know how to manage it.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but with careful treatment and a healthy lifestyle it is possible to have the condition and not feel its effects. Here are the things you need to know about osteoarthritis and keeping your joints in top condition:

  • Osteoarthritis usually affects people over 50, often women, but it can affect anyone as the result of a previous joint injury or condition. It can also be hereditary or affect those who work at a desk or have to make repetitive movements in their job. It is not just a natural part of getting older and needn’t be accepted or allowed to develop unchecked.
  • With knees and hips the most common joints to be affected, being overweight is a main cause of osteoarthritis. Carrying extra weight can put massive strain on your leg joints, and weakening them this way could lead to injury and therefore an increased risk of arthritis. Osteoarthritis develops differently in everyone, and can often get worse or better as the result of small changes over time, so losing weight can be key to managing the condition. Weight bearing joints are also more likely to be considered for replacement, but this will often depend on weight loss being addressed.
  • Exercise is another crucial way of protecting your joints. Not only will it help you lose weight and take the pressure off your knees, it will keep muscles strong and help to keep joints limber. Doing low stress exercise is key, swimming and cycling are better for your joints than running or weight training. Osteoarthritis is the result of your body failing to keep up with the natural joint repair process, so maintaining your general health, particularly keeping the muscles that support your joints strong, is a crucial treatment.
  • To know if you need to take action in looking after your joints, look out for pain, stiffness, difficulty doing certain things, tenderness, joints appearing larger or more knobbly, grating or crackling sounds and sensations and weakness or muscle wasting. If you think you have the symptoms of osteoarthritis it’s important to see your doctor.
  • With careful management even joints affected by osteoarthritis can remain usable. Without treatment osteoarthritis can develop into septic arthritis, gout and other conditions that can severely reduce your mobility, which in turn will make staying fit harder. Left unchecked osteoarthritis in your knees can cause them to give way and can make getting around increasingly difficult. Breaking the cycle by losing weight is the first step to healthy joints.

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