Exercise is key to managing osteoarthritis, says updated NICE guidance on the condition, published today (Wednesday 12 February).
Osteoarthritis is a common condition and sufferers have associated pain, joint stiffness and reduced quality of life. It affects the joints, most commonly the knees, hips, spine and small joints of the hands, but it can also occur in other joints as well.
Damage and loss of joint-lining cartilage, damage to adjacent bone, and inflammation of the tissues around the joint are the main characteristics of the condition, which affects many older people.
Around 1 million see their GP about Osteoarthritis every year and it accounts for 115,000 hospital admissions in the UK each year. The condition can affect people’s ability to undertake daily activities often taken for granted and it is one of the leading causes of pain and disability.
This updated NICE guidance provides evidence-based recommendations on the most effective ways of diagnosing and managing osteoarthritis, to help improve the lives of people affected by it. The guidance highlights that the core treatment for osteoarthritis remains exercise – this not only helps relieve pain for some people, but also improves function.
For people with osteoarthritis who are overweight or obese, losing weight plays an important part in helping them self-manage their condition.
Judi Rhys, CEO of Arthritis Care, the only UK charity working for the estimated 8.5 million people in the UK with osteoarthritis (OA) said that in principle they welcome the publication of new NICE guidelines on osteoarthritis (OA). And as this is a condition which, given the pain it gives to an estimated 8.5 million people in the UK, does not get the attention or funding it deserves.
From a patient perspective they specifically welcome the following recommendations:
- the offer of advice to all people with clinical osteoarthritis: access to appropriate information, activity and exercise, interventions to lose weight if the person is overweight or obese
- earlier referral for consideration of joint replacement surgery before there is prolonged and established limited mobility and severe pain, and that factors (including age, sex, smoking, obesity) should not be barriers to referral for joint surgery
- and most importantly that NICE are ‘considering’ annual reviews for anyone with other illnesses or conditions, ‘troublesome’ joint pain or more than one joint affected any drug for their OA – as this considered by them to be the majority of people with the condition
However, Arthritis Care are disappointed that treatments like ‘acupuncture’, glucosamine and chrondroitin’ are NOT recommended as thousands of sufferers use these and tell them they find them helpful. More research into the use of these treatments would be welcomed.
The charity concludes by saying the best way we help people with OA is through an approach called self management, which is a combination of weight management and appropriate exercise.
Arthritis Care helps people with this through a combination of courses, booklets, information on their website, and a free and confidential helpline 0808 800 4050