Arthritis – What you need to know

Arthritis is a real pain for older Australians, with new research from Osteopathy Australia revealing that over a third (36%) of those aged over 65 report arthritis as their biggest pain concern.


Joint inflammation can be chronic and cause pain and stiffness in the joints which can lead to a reduced range of motion. Arthritis often impacts the quality of life for those affected, worsening over time.


Types of arthritis

Generally, there are two types of arthritis: inflammatory and non-inflammatory. It’s more common to see people aged over 60 develop non-inflammatory arthritis –often, this is associated with degenerative arthritis.


There are many forms of arthritis, and the condition still isn’t very well understood. A few common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis may be hereditary as may be the case in inflammatory types of arthritis, or it may be caused by infection and chronic strain of the joints, or injury. In some cases, it can have no known cause. However, it is important to note that arthritis can be managed well if people are proactive in taking care of their health.


Arthritis warning signs

It is important to be able to pick up on the warning signs of arthritis early and seek treatment early. For some, joint pain may only occur well after their arthritis has developed, so it’s vital to be on the lookout for signs other than the obvious pains, to indicate potential progression of the condition.


Stiffness in the joints when first waking up may be a sign of early-stage arthritis. The duration of the stiffness will often indicate whether the arthritis could be inflammatory or non-inflammatory, although inflammatory arthritis will often present with fever-like symptoms on top of the general pains. If the joints are swollen and warm to touch, or there is a sensation of numbness and tingling, this may suggest that the arthritis is beginning to worsen.


Another less obvious but early sign of arthritis can be chronic fatigue. It is worth mentioning these symptoms to your osteopath as they are trained to understand these signs and symptoms and can help to guide you and, if necessary, refer you to your GP for further testing. Arthritis symptoms can be worse during the night, which can impact your sleep and contribute to daytime pains and tiredness.


People who have previously sustained an injury, particularly in their youth, may be at an increased risk of arthritis.


Arthritis treatment and prevention

Early treatment and prevention are key for arthritis. Early joint pain diagnosis is vital as it means appropriate arthritis treatment can be put into practice as soon as possible. Depending on when the condition is diagnosed, the symptoms of some forms of arthritis can be limited and managed, and progression slowed.


Treatments such as gentle massage of the affected areas, stretching, and prescribed medication may help reduce arthritis-related pain.


In addition, positive lifestyle choices may reduce the likelihood of arthritis presenting. Exercise can improve muscle strength around arthritic joints which helps to protect the joints from further damage. It can also help those with arthritis by reducing pain, improving their mood and cardiovascular health. Regular exercise and the implementation of a healthy lifestyle will lower the risk and future impact of arthritis and can be done by anyone – it is never too late!


Working closely with a trained health professional, such as an osteopath, may help those with arthritis to find the best way to manage their pain and improve their quality of life. Finding the right treatment can sometimes require a bit of trial and error, as something that may work for one patient will not always work for another.


Impacts of untreated arthritis

Arthritis is often thought of as only causing physical pain; however, arthritis may also impact other areas of health, especially if left untreated. Chronic pain or persistent pain is pain that lingers longer than it takes for the affected tissues to heal.


The severity of this may be determined by the type of arthritic condition and, if left untreated, arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, joint deformity and severe loss of function.


Arthritis may impact range of motion, and inhibit fitness and exercise ability, which may potentially lead to detrimental, long-term effects.


Do something about your pain

If you are experiencing pain, you are not alone. In fact, one in five Australians will experience persistent pain at some point in their lives. Pain is our in-built alarm system, warning us that something might be wrong and is a perfectly normal response, even if it is inconvenient and disruptive. A lot of the time, pain does not indicate severe damage, and often injuries will heal completely.


Osteopathy may be an option for those suffering with arthritis-related pain as it involves clinical care of the neuro-musculoskeletal system, which is made up of the bones, muscles, nerves and other tissues that support your body and control its movements.


Osteopaths are trained to identify persistent pain and offer a plan to improve symptoms. This may include various treatment and management options, such as manual therapy, advice on lifestyle, exercise and movement. Each case of persistent pain is different and needs an individualised plan.


Medicines alone are not the most effective way to treat chronic pain. Movement is extremely important too – there are a number of self-care strategies that can help you to manage your pain and keep you active and doing the things you love. To find out more about how osteopathy can help you to manage your pain and improve your general health and wellbeing, visit Osteopathy Australia at


26 May 2022.