Arthritis is a condition of pain and inflammation in one or more joints.
By far, the most common cause of arthritis is osteoarthritis, followed by rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are several inflammatory conditions which cause arthritis. These include ankylosing spondylitis, cervical spondylosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, gout, psoriatic arthritis, enteropathic arthritis and reactive arthritis.
Arthritis and other common joint problems affect more than 10 million people in the UK.
The symptoms associated with arthritis will depend on the underlying cause for the pain. The pain may be mild or severe and continuous or sporadic.
Many types of arthritis are associated with reduced range of movement of affected body structures resulting in limited function and restriction in activities.
The most common pain locations are back, hips and knees. However, the way the specific sites and the way they are affected may suggest the underlying cause of arthritis. Therefore, it is always important to seek a diagnosis where possible through a trained healthcare professional.
Arthritis is not only a physical problem; it often has severe effects on psychological, social and economic health.
A holistic approach is often needed to treat chronic arthritis. Physiotherapy, modifications to work and home environment and psychological therapies are important aspects of patient care. It is also important to try and continue exercising as tolerated.
Medical therapy is dependent on the underlying cause of arthritis, as addressing the underlying cause is an important component of treatment.
For arthritis, simple painkillers (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen, naproxen) are often first line treatment with stronger painkillers (e.g. codeine, tramadol and morphine) used in conjunction in severe pain. For those with inflammatory arthritis they may be started on specialist medications that regulate their immune system.
For those with osteoarthritis of the hip or knees, they may benefit from an operation when severe.
Medicinal cannabis can be considered when first line therapies have not achieved adequate symptom control for their pain. There is insufficient evidence to suggest whether medicinal cannabis may affect disease progression.