It's just Arthritis

Us kiwis pride ourselves in being tough, so it’s hard to admit to others when we are in pain. “It’s just arthritis” Really? I’m not sure that “just arthritis” covers the chronic pain that enters your daily life. That can render you unable to open a simple jar top. That wears down your hip joint so badly that you actually need a new one!

Arthritis affects one in six New Zealanders over the age of 15 and is the most common cause of chronic pain. Osteoarthritis is the most frequent form. It’s often referred to as the “wear and tear” arthritis because it happens when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. The wear and tear starts in early adulthood and by 60 years of age almost half of us will have osteoarthritis.  By the age of 80 it’s virtually everyone. So you’re not alone out there.

Getting the right medication will be a large help in controlling your pain.  The power of paracetamol can never be underestimated! Many people find that taking paracetamol on a regular basis helps keep the pain at a tolerable level. On the days that you have more pain, then further medications may be taken.  This may include an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or one of the stronger “pharmacist only” pain medications. “Pharmacist Only” pain medications are available after consultation with a pharmacist about what would best suit you and your pain.  Also talk to us pharmacists about a pain control medication plan so you can be in charge, not the pain!

But even me, the pharmacist, realises that medications are not the “be all, end all” to treatment. There are many other ways you can help control the pain.  A long term goal may be to lose excess weight. Extra weight on your joints increases the rate of degeneration, causing a worsening of pain.  A more short term goal can simply be to get moving.  “Use it or Lose It” is not only an expression, it is actually true! Make sure you get advice from a health professional about what sort of exercise would suit you. 

Other therapies that may help include acupuncture, T.E.N.S machines, heat therapy and complementary supplements such as glucosamine, tumeric and capsaicin gel. 

So to all of you “just arthritis” sufferers, come and ask for help. Don’t just tough it out.