Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint. There are many types of arthritis ranging from those related to wear and tear of cartilage such as osteoarthritis to those associated with inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis.

In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. The condition affects people of all ages including children. Two of the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people. In those affected by osteoarthritis, the cartilage between their bones gradually wastes away, leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and hips. Osteoarthritis often develops in people who are over 50 years of age. However, it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe, but less common, form of arthritis than osteoarthritis. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. This can lead to a reduction in movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage. In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects around 400,000 people, and often starts in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.
Common arthritic symptoms include: joint pain, tenderness and stiffness, inflammation in and around the joints and restricted movement of the joints.
In general, studies have shown that physical exercise of the affected joint can have noticeable improvement in terms of long-term pain relief. Furthermore, movement of the arthritic joint is encouraged to maintain the health of the particular joint and the overall body of the person. In arthritis the joints become stiff and the range of movement can be limited and physical therapy has been shown to significantly improve function and decrease pain.