Arthritis is very common in the UK, affecting around 10 million people of all ages. There are two main types: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. When it comes to older people, the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear; the older we are the more we have used our joints through our lifetimes. This type of arthritis affects around eight million people in the UK.
The condition develops most often in adults who are in their mid-40s or older, and is more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, making movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder. This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes. Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, spine, knees and hips.
For those suffering from osteoarthritis it is important to exercise and strengthen the muscles and tendons that support the joints. For the first time, charity Arthritis Action has teamed up with wellbeing organisation Oomph! to bring together older adult group exercise instructors with arthritis experts, to design a programme tailored to the needs of people with arthritis.
The new programme consists of three levels of intensity, targeting areas of the body commonly affected by arthritis: the hip, knees and spine. The exercises aim to aid strength, balance and co-ordination, with a focus on regaining, developing and maintaining physical independence.
The new programme was launched earlier this year on the Oomph! app, accessible to all trained instructors, to deliver the exercise sets to community venues, including retirement villages, sheltered housing, and day centres. This project was developed following demand for strength and balance exercises, suitable for people with arthritis, in a bid to make physical activity accessible for people with joint pain.
Arthritis Action has an online Self Management Resource available, covering areas such as diet and weight management, pain management, exercise, positive thinking and clinical support.
You can find the Self Management Resource Tool at: www.arthritisaction.org.uk/onlinesme
For information on NHS services and advice, please visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/arthritis
If you feel you are suffering from undiagnosed Osteoarthritis, make an appointment to see your GP.