Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint.  In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. It affects people of all ages, including children.  The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, it often develops in people who are over 50 years of age. However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.  Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness.  In osteoarthritis, the cartilage (connective tissue) between the bones gradually erodes, causing bone in the joints to rub together. The joints that are most commonly affected are those in the hands, spine, knees and hips. 

Rheumatoid osteoarthritis occurs when the body's immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.  The outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected.  This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint's shape. This can cause the bone and cartilage to break down. 

The symptoms of arthritis you experience will vary depending on the type you have.  This is why it's important to have an accurate diagnosis if you have any of the following:

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm, red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting 

Physiotherapy plays an important role in managing arthritis.  It can help you to maintain independence through improving your mobility, strength and flexibility.  

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