Adopt a healthier lifestyle and ease osteoarthritis symptoms

Adopt a healthier lifestyle and ease osteoarthritis symptoms
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New guidance from NICE: Healthy lifestyle choices such as exercising can help ease osteoarthritis symptoms.

Clinical evidence shows that a tailored exercise programme that includes muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise could help individuals with osteoarthritis symptoms and support improved health outcomes.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft updated guidelines for care and management of osteoarthritis and its subsequent symptoms. It recommends that healthcare professionals consider exercise alongside providing evidence-based information to people with osteoarthritis symptoms to support them in a structured way.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is caused by changes in the whole joint that can cause discomfort and pain. It can lead to reduced quality of life and is the most common form of arthritis. According to statistics, the condition affects approximately 7.4 million people in England over the age of 45.

Osteoarthritis symptoms include joint tenderness, increased stiffness and muscle wasting. These symptoms mostly affect the knees, hips and small hand joints.

Easing osteoarthritis symptomsexer

It is advised that healthcare professionals should support people who have the condition and are overweight to choose a weight loss goal to help manage their osteoarthritis symptoms. Losing weight can help reduce joint pain for people with osteoarthritis symptoms.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director for the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “Osteoarthritis can cause people discomfort and prevent them from undertaking some of their normal daily activities. However, there is evidence which shows muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise can have an impact on not just managing the condition, but also providing people with an improved quality of life. Beginning that journey can be uncomfortable for some people at first, and they should be supported and provided with enough information to help them to manage their condition over a long period of time.

“Whilst topical and sometimes oral NSAIDs remain an important treatment option for osteoarthritis, we have taken the decision to not recommend some painkillers, such as paracetamol and some opioids for osteoarthritis. This is because new evidence has shown there was little or no benefit to people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress and particularly in the case of strong opioids, there was evidence that they can cause harm in the longer term, including possible addiction.”

The draft guidance calls upon improving diagnosis for osteoarthritis. It recommends diagnosing osteoarthritis clinically without the need for imaging in people who are over 45, have activity-related joint pain, and have either no morning joint-related stiffness or morning stiffness that lasts no longer than 30 minutes.

The draft guideline is now open for public consultation until 15th June 2022.

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