Arthritis 

Introduction 

Arthritis: Paul's story

Arthritis causes pain and inflammation of the joints and bones. Paul Casimir has been living with arthritis for half his life, but he doesn't let it stop him doing the things he enjoys.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Life with arthritis

Tips on living with a long-term condition, including healthcare, medicines and support

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 (see below).

Types of arthritis

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting around 8 million people.

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.

The cartilage lining of the joint can then thin and tissues within the joint can become more active. This can then lead to swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes. 

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.

Read more about osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis

In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people. It often starts when a person is between 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are two different conditions. 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.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body. 

Read more about rheumatoid arthritis.

Other types of arthritis and related conditions

  • Ankylosing spondylitis  a long-term inflammatory condition that mainly affects the bones, muscles and ligaments of the spine, leading to stiffness. Other problems can include the swelling of tendons, eyes and large joints. 
  • Cervical spondylosis  also known as degenerative osteoarthritis, cervical spondylitis affects the joints and bones in the neck, which can lead to pain and stiffness.
  • Fibromyalgia  causes pain in the body's muscles, ligaments and tendons.
  • Lupus  an autoimmune condition that can affect many different organs and the body's tissues.
  • Gout  a type of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the body. This can be left in joints (usually affecting the big toe) but can develop in any joint. It causes intense pain and swelling.
  • Psoriatic arthritis  an inflammatory joint condition that can affect people with psoriasis.
  • Enteropathic arthritis  a form of chronic, inflammatory arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the two best-known types being ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. About 1 in 5 people with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis will develop enteropathic arthritis. The most common areas affected by inflammation are the peripheral (limb) joints and the spine.
  • Reactive arthritis  this can cause inflammation of the joints, eyes and urethra (the tube that urine passes through). It develops shortly after an infection of the bowel, genital tract or, less frequently, after a throat infection.
  • Secondary arthritis  a type of arthritis that can develop after a joint injury and sometimes occurs many years afterwards.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica  a condition that affects people over 50 years of age, where the immune system causes muscle pain, stiffness and joint inflammation.

Symptoms of arthritis

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:

  • 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

Arthritis and children

Arthritis is often associated with older people, but it can also affect children. In the UK, about 15,000 children and young people are affected by arthritis.

Most types of childhood arthritis are known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). JIA causes pain and inflammation in one or more joints for at least six weeks.

Although the exact cause of JIA is unknown, the symptoms often improve as a child gets older, meaning they can lead a normal life.

The main types of JIA are discussed below. You can also read more about the different types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis on the Arthritis Research UK website.

Oligo-articular JIA

Oligo-articular JIA is the most common type of JIA. It affects fewer than five joints in the body – most commonly in the knees, ankles and wrists.

Oligo-articular JIA has good recovery rates and long-term effects are rare. However, there's a risk that children with the condition may develop eye problems, so regular eye tests with an ophthalmologist (eye care specialist) are recommended.

Polyarticular JIA (polyarthritis)

Polyarticular JIA, or polyarthritis, affects five or more joints. It can develop at any age during childhood.

The symptoms of polyarticular JIA are similar to the symptoms of adult rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is often accompanied by a rash and a high temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above.

Systemic onset JIA

Systemic onset JIA begins with symptoms such as a fever, rash, lethargy (a lack of energy) and enlarged glands. Later on, joints can become swollen and inflamed.

Like polyarticular JIA, systemic onset JIA can affect children of any age.

Enthesitis-related arthritis

Enthesitis-related arthritis is a type of juvenile arthritis that affects older boys or teenagers. It can cause pain in the soles of the feet and around the knee and hip joints, where the ligaments attach to the bone.

Treating arthritis

There's no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help slow down the condition.

For osteoarthritis, painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids are often prescribed.

In severe cases, the following surgical procedures may be recommended:

  • arthroplasty (joint replacement)
  • arthodesis (joint fusion)
  • osteotomy (where a bone is cut and re-aligned)

Read more about how osteoarthritis is treated.

In treating rheumatoid arthritis, the aim is to slow down the condition's progress and minimise damage to the joints. Recommended treatments include:

Read more about how rheumatoid arthritis is treated.

Further information and support

Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care provide more information about arthritis, as well as advice and support for people living with arthritis.

You can also use the NHS post code search to find arthritis services in your area.




Page last reviewed: 21/02/2014

Next review due: 21/02/2016

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Comments

The 34 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Quickbob said on 23 August 2014

This could be a long one but it is real and maybe some help. Sometime ago I found I was becoming alergic to milk(dairy products) so I stopped it.Also suffered terrible ear-wax Two days later it all cleared up never to return. Great.!!
The other week I was getting creaking knees joints etc. really felt like I was seizing up. ? to do.
Actually started fancying some cereal and milk. Remember I no longer use milk.Remembered occasionally having a Mcd milkshake and reading it was made with sterilized milk. Found some, had my cereal, no bad reaction.
Two days later all my joints were fluid again and I could move freely Great!!
Have I stumbled on something. It sure worked for me.
Hope it might be worth a try for somebody.

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QueenieK said on 22 July 2014

Hi, I'm 24 and firstly suffered with back pain (chiropractor diagnosed sciatica) very uncomfortable and left me not knowing where to put myself for a week as couldn't sit or stand, this was 2 months ago, 2 weeks later I woke up with a swollen toe (next to big toe on left foot) looked red and swollen around joint unknown to injury I assumed id stubbed it, a week later I woke up with a swollen wrist on my wedding day, extremely painful went to a&e and was told it was a sprain, the following week on honeymoon my feet decided to swell (assumed this was from the plane) then my right toe did the same as the left, and now 4 weeks later my right knee has become stiff and swollen, and woke up yesterday and my left has done the same...last Friday I was referred to a rheumatologist very fast! They've taken blood tests, x rays and gave me a steroid injection, they've diagnosed inflammatory arthritis but still waiting for test results to find out which one x

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NHSFan01 said on 19 April 2014

Would like to praise my rheumatology department at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead as they cured my aches and pains for my arthritis by giving me an injection in January this year. Class A drugs should not be downgraded and ever since had the injection have felt no aches or pains in any of my joints and no limping in my right foot no more that occurred last year.

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becca921 said on 19 November 2013

Im 20 years old ive been struggling with arthritis since having my daughter 5th june 2012. it started in top of spine yet in the last 17 months it has spread down my back into my hips and now starting in my knees is there anything i can try to take the pain of a little and stop the spreading? i would love to be a normal mum to my child and be able to take her on long walks and play with her. Any information is appreciated

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User820526 said on 17 November 2013

2006-7 saw my shoulders resurfaced and total hip replacement (DePuy). I hav suffered constant pain since, which has now become acute.

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Snow Cat said on 21 October 2013

This condition/inflammation seems to be made worse by damp and cold weather conditions and a diet which contains sugars, either refined sugars, - which can be particularly bad, - or fruits which are high in sugar may also make the condition worse. Hot dry weather seems to significantly reduce the condition, as does a diet which contains hardly any sugar. Apart from painkilling and/or anti-inflammatory medicine, and therapies, there seems to be little a person can do, except to take steps to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet and perhaps to relocate to a warm climate.

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korenx said on 07 May 2013

i get really bad pain in my knees and the doctor is sending me for a MRI but only on my knee which is worse. if it comes back that i do have arthritis will they check if i have it any where else as my joins in my sholders and hands are always clicking sometimes feel very ache. its been hard just to get them to do something about my knees

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User749942 said on 20 February 2013

Hi Jah88
I hope you're feeling better although expect you've been finding the winter tough. I am 30 years old and have been experiencing the same as you, since the same age. I am also 5 foot 11. I was also told I had low vitamin D. I am also what they call hypermobile in my joints. Has your doc checked for this?
Are there any rheumatology problems in your family? There are lots of varying problems in my family such as early onset arthritis, thyroid, lupus, and on the strength of this I got a referral to my local hospital's rheumatology department. This was where I was diagnosed with spondyloarthropathy and hypermobility. But even if you do not have problems in your family, why not ask the doc if you can get a referral to a specialist as you are still in so much pain, and the pain gets worse in the cold, this is a typical rheumatological symptom and only a specialist can diagnose.
I have found strengthening exercises the most useful medicine. I have also seen a homeopath who treated me for viruses that can cause pain in joints. I felt better after their medicine too.
An MRI scan showed I had a slpped disc so I have been seeing a chiropractor for that. I saw someone who uses the 'mctimoney' method as its very gentle and specific. Its helped ease symptoms a lot.
I thought it was worth trying every route.
If you can - start paying in to a money-back insurance scheme before you get diagnosed - it will pay for any treatment you want but cannot get on NHS once you are diagnosed!
I am now much better and seeing the consultant again soon. All the best.

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jah88 said on 23 December 2012

I'm 24 i have been having pains in my joints since about the age of 18 mainly in my elbows, hips, shoulders, and it leave me feeling paralyzed in the morning and I've had to have friends carry me to the doc, i find that in the winter it gets worst but every time i go to the doctor last i just get told its nothing and dont feel like im being listened to.

i was told my vitD levels are low and was precribed supplements and that could be the reasons. now this year the pains are worse than ever and i dont know what to do im living off ibuphoren and pain killers im not even 25 yet

im 5ft 11 nd 10st im not under/over weight but i cant take this pain i really dont jnow what to do.

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susiecoo said on 21 November 2012

Hi, has anyone had a bone fusion on their big toe? and if so could you get proper shoes on afterwards?

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db1dj1 said on 14 November 2012

reply to susiecoo-itoo had pain in ball of right foot.many doc/podietry and othotic treatments eventually had an op to raise my metatarsel . this did not help. spent hours on line self diagnosing and decided it was mortens neuroma .hinted this to phisio helping me get walking after op . she said mention it to gp.did so and was sent for ultrasound which confirmed neuroma . three years of agony and many so called specialists later it was my own diagnosis that was correct . have had op to remove neuroma and can now walk again painlessly. this is an extreamly painful condition and i advise you to insist on being refered to your hospital podietry surgeon.good luck and best wishes .life can be normal again.

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susiecoo said on 03 September 2012

About 5 or 6 years ago i had pain in my foot, especially my big toe, it was not red or swollen but very painful. well I was told by my Doctor that it was Gout! because my Uric acid level was quite high. I questioned this as it was not the typical symptoms of Gout, I was prescribed Alopurinol which i would have to take for the rest of my life! I took these for a while but without any relief, so stopped, in the meantime everytime i visited my Doctor i questioned whether it was Gout, he eventually referred me to Hospital for tests, after a considerable time i was diagnosed with a Mortons Nueroma & also Arthritus in my Bigtoe, I had the Nueroma injected & the Toe manipulated & injected under anesthetic, that was 6months ago, but now I am in considerable pain and am waiting to see the surgeon again at the Nuffield, in the meantime it is so difficult to get about. Has anyone else experienced this condition?

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no1mama said on 20 March 2012

I've had rheumatism in my legs since a child (apparently an inherited family tendancy, so a doctor informed me) Lived with that for years, but have had increasing & severe pain of different kind for several years, for which I have been prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets. This has got increasingly worse, & to try to ease the pain, I tried several other remedies, none of which helped. My present doctor has since identified the problem as osteoarthritis, (in my hips, knees, spine &hands) which will not improve, only get worse, I am informed. I have been prescribed other medication which has improved things a little, but they will only alleviate the symptoms. I find that I am getting limitations in mobility, sometimes quite severe, & although I work full-time at present, because of these problems, am considering going part-time or even retiring. The thing is, in view of my problems, if I retired, could I register as disabled?
And if so, how?

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sadwithpain said on 17 February 2012

Although I have had severe back pain for years I have coped with it thanks to Co-Codamol. But since I retired I (2010) have now got pain in my joints! isn't nature cruel?I was referred to specialist last week who says he can relieve my wrist/thumb pain with an op' to remove some bone which will give me relief. I am so looking forward to that (when it happens) Sleepless nights are common place with this kind of pain. getting plenty of reading done though. I can recommend getting a Kindle as it is so light it puts little pressure on thumbs.

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halo1994 said on 07 February 2012

Hi my name is Chelsey. I am age 17 and have just been diagnosed with Imflamtory arthritus. It strated off with back at the beigining of December 2011. When my right knee strtedto get painful and feel stiff. I was ony now that the doctors have just been able to tell me whats wrong. I was wondering if anyone could giv me any information about it and what i should do. and also maybe what i will be experiancing now that i have been diagnosed with it. I was also wondering if anyone would kno , if I was able to claim disablity for it . thankyou for your help :)

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spikeyfigow said on 01 December 2011

@bexy1... just read ur comment with interest as i am goin 2 c a rheumatologist this month as i hav alot of pain and swollen joints but i am also seeing a physio at moment as i hav had groin strain for over a year so i will b interested 2 find out if this is also arthritis rather than groin strain

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Bexy1 said on 24 November 2011

I am now 47 and I was diagnosed with Artritis in my hips 2 years ago. I thought it was a groin strain at first and my my doctor only sent me for an xray because it was not going away. The xray and physio assessment should show fairly conclusivly I think if you have arthritis. Its a progressive problem so its only going to get worse but the medication just helps with the pain and inflamation basically. I have put off surgery for a year but I have gone down hill pretty quickly over the last few months (my phsio did warn me about this) and am due to have an op in Jan for both hips, I can't wait to be honest.

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canter2862 said on 04 November 2011

hi my phartner is active and in good helth only some times hes fingers lock does aney one no wot it is

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zavrou said on 14 July 2011

I have severe o/arthritis in my right hand especially my middle finger. Problem is that I do not have an index finger owing to an accident some years ago and my poor middle finger does the work of two. Complicate that with a terminally ill husband and then tell me to take ibuprofen and propain gel. I have yet to find a pain killer that works and with the number of times a day I have to wash my hands propain gel is a waste of money. Am seeing Dr on 20th to try to get some better treatment. Will let you all know.

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John Wragg said on 09 May 2011

I was told today by my doctor that I have Osteoarthritis and that there was nothing he could do about it except give me pain killers as the pain got worse. Wow thanks doc.

J

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kels62 said on 10 February 2011

I'm confused I've had blood tests that confirmed inflammation which is my hips. I have xrays which confirmed this and had the results today. All that was said by one dr its just gen wear and tear. Nothing unusual dont see any need for any ops. I told him I have a lot of pain sometimes. I get very stiff. All have problems sleeping because of it. Was told to take pain killers and lose weight.
The other dr who saw my xray has refered me to a Rheumatologist I'm waiting for an app.This is effecting my life in gen includding my work.It has got worse within the last year. I have explained this. I do take various tabs for the joins have been for a year. Two diff things two drs..I will be going to see what specialist has to say.

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Lilu said on 06 February 2011

Hello!
I'm thinking about moving in UK (after graduating), but there are some concerns with my treatment: I have still's disease(diagnosed in 2010, april, I'm 24 years old). I'm taking now: Methotrexate 15 mg per week; 8 mg Medrol (Methylprednisolonum) every day; and 20 mg Arava(Leflunomide) every other day. In my home (Latvia) first & third medicaments I receive for free as a eligible drugs, of course with presciptions. And how is in UK, about this question?Patients with the same disease must pay full price?
Best Regards!

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coltay said on 02 January 2011

i have arthritis and have been prescribed Naprosyn 500mg (twice a day) I jog for about 30 minutes a day, my pain is not severe most days just soreness and dont think i need to take Naprosyn long term(with so many side affects) but my doctor says i should keep taking it . Will Naprosyn slow the diesese down or is it just a pain killer ?

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lawebstar said on 07 December 2010

im new to this website and this is the first coment ive made, im not sure if i have arthritus or not, but i can tell you now all my joints hurt esp in this winter weather, my lower back is starting to really hurt now and i cant stand up-right, does anyone know of these symptoms and can you point me in the right direction please, thank you.

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ariel66 said on 04 August 2010

Dear Gymrat,
I understand you very well, because I have got arthritis as well. I have had it for 10 years now. It is well treated, so that I am in very good shape, I can say. I am 43 now. Only last year I started again wiht pains in my hands (some fingers always swollen, which I feared so much). This happened because I wanted to plan pregnancy and in order to do that I had to stop Methotrexate and Plaquenil. Then I decided at the moment to stop planning pregnancy, since my health is more important than having a child at all cost.
In July I went to see my previous rhumatologist, who changed my therapy. I am feeling much better. In fact, after coming back to Methotrexate an Plaquenil ( since Half May) I haven't been feeling well as before. My new rhumatolgist (who is indeed a doctor who was curing me 6 years ago) decided to make me take cyclosporine instead of Methotrexate and Enbrel instead of Remicade. (Remicade and Enbrel are both biological drugs which are used to treat arthritis).
What therapy are you following?
I hope you will answer.
Now I have a problem here in England, because I should do a blood test to check the level of cyclosporine in my blood, and the say that I am not covered with NHS ( even though I am a European citizen, I am Italian being on holiday, I think this is unfair).

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gymrat said on 29 July 2010

i was just diagnosed with AC joint arthritis 3 weeks ago, i believe i have had this for a few years now, anyway have had physio and steroid injections. I work in a sports centre i am a qualified gym instructor and also work around the centre but i have lots of flare ups in this joint and i am angry because although i know i should keep it mobilized i can't because of the pain and discumfort the next few days and because i am angry i carry on with the management team, just to release the stress. I am 37 years old what do you suggest

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User63550 said on 23 June 2010

Some GP's have different views. An 87 old lady has athritis and the GP said it is becuase of age. I do ot think this should be the attititue from the GP instead of trying to help them with diet, other treatemnt home visit by the pysiotheraphyist in her home.

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furat82 said on 24 March 2010

What we give to our customers for the arthiritis is only sound healthy natural products. it relives them alot without any side effects and also it also prevetative for any of the predicted arthiritis, which I also use on my self. the products I use lubricates the joints from inside and makes the cartilage so smooth.

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bagpuss60 said on 23 February 2010

well ron the worste thing you can do is jog, the best exercise you could do is, take a nice stroll around your area, and look for another doctor, who knows something about artritis, i myself have lived with it since i was 14yrs old, been in and out of hospitals had replacement joints, ive had a great life done all that i wanted to do, except drive:huge regret: but hay ho ive let it go. i do have a nifty little scooter thats gets me out , i cant walk now, but that not entirely to do with arther, i had a spine op that went wrong, so ron, by all means exercise, but take it easy, its not like when your training at a gym and your going for the burn,do that and you will burn believe me, you will flare up, my motto is if its hurting STOP.and my rhumatoligist always says to me jean i agree with you. enjoy your life. take care and good luck xxx

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Jaxo said on 28 September 2009

I (compound) fractured my ankle many years ago in a car accident and have not been without pain since. Sometimes it is so excrutiating that I can't put my foot on the ground, it also wakes me at night. I have seen a consultant who suggest I have it fused, but I am worried that it will leave me with an even worse limp than I already have on bad days. Can you tell me if I will regret having this done.

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LJKLJK said on 23 September 2009

The term Reiter's syndrome is no longer used, as agreed by international editors of rheumatology journals, and I am amazed that you haven't checked. Firstly, Reiter was not the first to describe the syndrome, and secondly he was a doctor associated closely with the Nazi regime and conducted unethical experiments on unconsenting patients, so should not be recognised in this way. If you aren't up to date with this, what else is inaccurate? Also, rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis, not a synonym for it.

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lararefaeli said on 26 August 2009

Arthritis means "inflammation of joints." Yet when older people are afflicted with arthritis, they tend to be bothered less by the inflammation and more by the pain and stiffness that accompany arthritis.

Many people assume arthritis to be an unavoidable part of growing old. Although aging itself does not cause arthritis, arthritis does become more common as people age, for various reasons. The development of arthritis brings many older people much distress. Jack Benny may have captured a sense of that distress when, as he was being honored, he remarked about his arthritis, "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either."

Among the different types of arthritis, several affect mostly older people. The most common of these is osteoarthritis. Others include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, and infectious arthritis

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KateSmith said on 04 June 2009

If it hurts too much, then jogging is not the best thing at the moment. What your doctor meant by this is that your condition mustn't stop you from being active as usual. I recommend you to take walks of a certain length and at a certain speed most convenient for you and..... doing USUAL things you did before your condition actually began. I'm myself a person with arthritis being only 31 years old! I wish you good luck!

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ronniemagen said on 16 May 2009

i have arthritis no more to be said
my doctor suggests i go jogging would this help

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