Published 31 Oct 2023
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a name for a group of conditions affecting the joints. These conditions cause damage to the joints, usually resulting in pain and stiffness. Arthritis can affect different parts of a joint and nearly every joint in the body.
The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
What are the symptoms?
Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, allowing them to move against each other). This can result in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the everyday life. For example, pain and stiffness in your hip joints or lower back after sitting for too long; or feeling like you’ve “done too much” when your finger or wrist joints ache after using tools.
Who gets arthritis?
Arthritis can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles. In Australia one in six people have arthritis, and two out of every three people with arthritis are between 15 and 60 years old.
How can I prevent arthritis?
The cause of arthritis is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors can play a part.
Some forms of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis might be the result of the body’s immune system, for some reason, losing its ability to tell the difference between good and bad cells. This means the body attacks healthy cells, such as those found in joints.
Some forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, can be prevented or delayed with some healthy lifestyle choices. For example, up to 70% of osteoarthritis can be prevented by reducing body weight and preventing joint injuries, such as those sustained at work or during sport. Key strategies include maintaining a healthy weight, being active, preventing injury or properly managing an injury, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol. Your GP can advise you on ways to modify these risk factors.
I have arthritis what can I do?
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many things you can do to manage it and lessen the impact on everyday life.
Talk to your doctor
Your doctor is the best source of information about managing arthritis. He or she should be your first point of contact for any questions you have about your arthritis or other health issues. Your GP can help you coordinate your overall health care, including making referrals to specialists and other health professionals if needed. They can also recommend medication or other treatment options.
Everyone with or without arthritis should be doing regular exercise for health. Research has found that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis - it helps to reduce pain and maintain general health. The important thing is to choose activities that best suit your condition, health and lifestyle.
Low-impact activities are a great way to start and include:
If you think you might need some help your GP is a great place to start. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist is also trained to prescribe exercise specific to your needs.
The best diet for arthritis is a healthy, balanced diet to maintain general health and prevent other medical problems. Follow the healthy eating guidelines by eating fresh fruit and vegetables and minimising processed food.
If you think you might need some help with nutrition then talking to a dietitian to get a personal nutrition plan is a great starting point.
Being overweight can lead to more pain and damage to hips and knees affected by arthritis. For example, even a five percent reduction in body weight can reduce symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
If you think you might need some help with weight loss then talk to your GP. You can also speak with a dietitian to help you to improve your nutrition and an exercise physiologist to help you safely start to move a little bit more.
For more information, Arthritis Australia offers the latest research, fact sheets and support.
Osteoarthritis screening tool
You can screen yourself for osteoarthritis online and get advice on how to manage your arthritis.
What is the best health insurance for arthritis management?
GMHBA’s Gold extras cover offers benefits for dietician visits, physiotherapy and exercise physiology and weight loss management plans.
Be rewarded for managing arthritis through regular, low impact exercise
GMHBA AIA Vitality members are rewarded for regular exercise even if it’s low impact, as well as healthy eating, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy BMI. GMHBA with AIA Vitality complements your health insurance with a personalised, scientifically-backed program that supports you every day to make healthier lifestyle choices. It supports you to understand you health, provides the tools to start improving your health right away, and offers great incentives to keep you motivated along your journey - including lifestyle rewards, and 50% off flights. Find out more today.