Living with arthritis
Living with arthritis isn't easy and carrying out simple, everyday tasks can often be painful and difficult.
However, there are many things you can do to live a healthy lifestyle. A range of services and benefits are also available.
Many people with arthritis want to continue working for many reasons, including better financial security and higher self-esteem.
Improved treatment approaches have helped ensure that many people diagnosed with arthritis can return to work. This is particularly the case if arthritis is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
You may find work challenging, but your employer should help you with the training and support you need.
Help is also available if your arthritis is so severe that you're unable to work.
It's very important to eat a healthy, balanced diet if you have arthritis. Eating healthily will give you all the nutrients you need and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Your diet should consist of a variety of foods from all 5 food groups. These are:
- fruit and vegetables
- starchy foods – such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta
- meat, fish, eggs and beans
- milk and dairy foods
- foods containing fat and sugar
If you're overweight, losing weight can really help you cope with arthritis. Too much weight places excess pressure on the joints in your hips, knees, ankles and feet, leading to increased pain and mobility problems.
If your arthritis is painful, you may not feel like exercising. However, being active can help reduce and prevent pain. Regular exercise can also:
- improve your movement and joint mobility
- increase muscle strength
- reduce stiffness
- boost your energy
As long as you do the right type and level of exercise for your condition, your arthritis won't get any worse. Combined with a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise will help you lose weight and place less strain on your joints. Your GP can recommend the type and level of exercise that's right for you.
If you have arthritis, it's important to look after your joints to avoid further damage. For example, try to reduce the stress on your joints while carrying out everyday tasks like moving and lifting.
To help protect your joints (particularly if you have arthritis):
- use larger, stronger joints as levers – for example, take the pressure of opening a heavy door on your shoulder rather than on your hand
- use several joints to spread the weight of an object – for example, use both hands to carry your shopping or distribute the weight evenly by using a rucksack
- don't grip too tightly – grip as loosely as possible or use a padded handle to widen your grip
It's also important to avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time and to take regular breaks so you can move around.
If you have arthritis, carrying out tasks around the home can be a challenge. However, making some practical changes to your home and changing the way you work should make things easier.
Practical tips that could help include:
- keeping things in easy reach
- using a hand rail to help you get up and down the stairs
- using long-handled tools to pick things up or to clean
- fitting levers to taps to make them easier to turn
- using electric kitchen equipment, such as tin openers, when preparing food
An occupational therapist can help if you have severe arthritis that's affecting your ability to move around your home and carry out everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning.
They can advise about equipment you may need to help you live independently.
Depending on the exact nature of your condition, your GP may be able to refer you to an NHS occupational therapist. However, you may need to access this type of therapy through your local council.
Arthritis and driving
You only need to inform the DVLA if you have arthritis and use special controls for driving.
Children with arthritis
Make sure your child eats healthily and exercises regularly. They need to maintain a healthy weight because being overweight can put strain on their joints and make their arthritis symptoms worse.
Having arthritis shouldn't stop your child leading a normal school life, but keep the school informed about your child's health so they can provide extra support if needed.
Page last reviewed: 8 September 2022
Next review due: 8 September 2025