This article aims to provide practical guidance for individuals at risk of developing arthritis or those already living with the condition. By adopting the suggested lifestyle modifications, readers can actively minimise their chances of developing arthritis and better manage its impact on their daily lives.
Don’t forget that our Rheumatology Department has lots of experience helping people with arthritis, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss treatment. Find out more here.
Follow a Balanced Diet
1. Emphasise Nutrient-Dense Foods
Prioritise consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for joint health.
For instance, incorporating foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, and bell peppers, can aid in collagen synthesis and protect cartilage from damage.
Similarly, incorporating sources of omega-3 fatty acids like fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel), chia seeds, and walnuts can help reduce inflammation in the joints.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Strive to achieve and maintain a healthy weight to alleviate excessive stress on the joints, particularly weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips.
To achieve weight management goals, focus on portion control, balanced meals, and incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine.
3. Limit Inflammatory Foods
Reduce the consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. These foods can contribute to inflammation in the body, potentially exacerbating arthritis symptoms. Instead, opt for anti-inflammatory options like leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. These foods can help reduce systemic inflammation and support joint health.
For example, substituting refined white bread with whole-grain alternatives like quinoa or brown rice can provide additional fibre and nutrients while minimising inflammation.
Consulting a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can provide personalised guidance and support in developing a suitable diet plan tailored to individual needs and conditions.
4. Choose Whole, Unprocessed Foods
Focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. Whole foods are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, which can help reduce inflammation, support a healthy weight, and improve overall joint health.
For instance, opt for a fresh apple instead of processed apple juice, enjoy a homemade vegetable stir-fry instead of pre-packaged frozen meals, and choose plain yoghurt with fresh berries instead of sugary flavoured yoghurts.
5. Drink Sufficient Water
Ensure you consume an adequate amount of water throughout the day to maintain hydration. The general recommendation is to drink at least eight glasses of water daily (around 2 litres or half a gallon).
Hydration needs may vary depending on factors such as age, activity level, climate, and individual health conditions. It is important to listen to your body’s signals and increase water intake as needed.
Drinks like coffee and tea can contribute to hydration, but excessive consumption may have diuretic effects. Balance these with plain water to meet your hydration goals.
6. Include Hydrating Foods
Incorporate hydrating foods with high water content into your diet. Fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, oranges, and lettuce, are excellent choices. These foods not only provide hydration but also offer additional benefits like fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and joint function.
For instance, a refreshing salad with cucumber slices and lettuce leaves can provide hydration while adding crunch and nutrition to your meal.
7. Monitor Electrolyte Balance
Maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes in the body, as they play a crucial role in hydration and muscle function. Electrolytes include minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Consuming electrolyte-rich foods can help support hydration. Examples include bananas, coconut water, yoghurt spinach, and almonds.
In cases of excessive sweating due to physical activity or hot weather, consider replenishing electrolytes with natural or commercially available electrolyte drinks to ensure optimal hydration.
Listen to your body’s hydration needs, especially during hot weather or intense physical activity. If you have specific concerns or medical conditions, consult with a healthcare professional for personalised hydration recommendations.
8. Practice Joint-Friendly Exercises
Engage in low-impact exercises that minimise stress on the joints while providing cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefits. These activities include swimming, cycling, brisk walking, and tai chi.
Incorporate exercises that focus on joint strength, stability, and flexibility. For example, yoga or Pilates can improve core strength and balance, reducing the risk of falls and joint injuries.
It is important to modify exercises based on individual capabilities and limitations, and consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified exercise specialist to ensure appropriate exercise selection and technique.
Find out more about arthritis and exercise in our Health Hub.
9. Take Precautions during Physical Activities
Prioritise safety precautions during sports and recreational activities to minimise the risk of joint injuries. This includes wearing appropriate protective gear such as helmets, knee pads, or wrist guards, as well as using proper technique and following rules and regulations.
Warm up adequately before physical activities to prepare the muscles and joints for exercise. Engage in stretching exercises to improve flexibility and joint range of motion, reducing the likelihood of strains or sprains.
Listen to your body and avoid overexertion. Rest when needed, especially if experiencing pain or fatigue, to prevent excessive stress on the joints and minimise the risk of injury.
10. Early Detection and Intervention
Regular check-ups allow healthcare professionals to assess individual risk factors, family history, and early signs of arthritis. Through physical examinations, medical history reviews, and relevant diagnostic tests, they can identify potential red flags or pre-arthritis conditions.
By detecting arthritis or related conditions in the early stages, healthcare providers can implement preventive measures, such as lifestyle modifications, exercise programs, and appropriate medications, to potentially delay or prevent the progression of the disease.
For instance, if an individual experiences joint stiffness or swelling, seeking timely medical attention during check-ups can help determine the cause and initiate suitable interventions, preventing further joint damage.
11. Individualised Treatment Plans
Regular check-ups allow for the development of personalised treatment plans based on the individual’s specific needs, symptoms, and disease progression. Healthcare professionals can evaluate the effectiveness of current treatments, modify medication dosages, or recommend alternative therapies as needed.
By regularly monitoring arthritis symptoms and joint health, healthcare providers can make necessary adjustments to treatment plans, ensuring optimal pain management and functional improvement for individuals living with arthritis.
For example, regular check-ups enable the monitoring of disease activity in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, allowing healthcare professionals to prescribe appropriate disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologic therapies to control inflammation and prevent joint damage.
12. Ongoing Education and Support
Regular check-ups provide opportunities for healthcare professionals to educate individuals about arthritis prevention, management strategies, and self-care techniques. They can offer guidance on exercise programs, joint protection techniques, weight management, and assistive devices to improve daily functioning.
Through these check-ups, individuals can receive emotional support, coping strategies, and resources to help them navigate the challenges of living with arthritis. They can also stay informed about the latest advancements in arthritis treatment and participate in clinical trials or research studies if applicable.
For instance, during regular check-ups, healthcare professionals may provide advice on joint-friendly exercises suitable for individuals with arthritis, such as aquatic therapy or range-of-motion exercises.
Limit repetitive movements
13. Take Regular Breaks
When engaging in activities that involve repetitive motions, such as typing, using hand tools, or performing assembly line work, take regular breaks to allow your joints time to rest and recover. Break up long periods of repetitive movements with stretching exercises or other activities that involve different muscle groups. This helps alleviate joint stress and prevent overuse injuries.
For example, if you spend a significant amount of time typing, take short breaks every 30 minutes to stretch your fingers, wrists, and shoulders. Consider incorporating hand exercises or using ergonomic equipment to minimise strain.
14. Diversify Activities
Avoid excessive repetition of the same movements by diversifying your activities and incorporating a range of motions. Engage in a variety of exercises or tasks that involve different muscle groups to distribute the workload across joints and minimise the risk of overuse injuries.
For instance, if you engage in repetitive arm movements during your work, balance it with activities that involve leg movements, such as walking, cycling, or swimming. This helps prevent joint strain and promotes overall joint health.
Additionally, consider alternating between activities throughout the day or delegating tasks to different body parts to prevent excessive stress on specific joints.
Find out more on how exercise can help ease arthritis pain in our Health Hub.
Maintain Good Posture
15. Practise Spinal Alignment
Maintain proper alignment of the spine to promote good posture and minimise stress on the joints. Ensure that the natural curves of the spine—cervical, thoracic, and lumbar—are maintained in their optimal positions.
Sit and stand tall with your shoulders back and relaxed, chin slightly tucked in, and your abdominal muscles engaged to support the spine. Avoid slouching or excessive forward head posture.
For example, imagine a vertical line passing through your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle. Try to align your body along this imaginary line, maintaining a neutral and balanced posture.
16. Support Joint Health
Maintain good posture to support joint health and reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Proper alignment reduces excessive stress on the joints, particularly in weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and spine.
By minimising joint stress, maintaining good posture can help prevent joint wear and tear, cartilage degeneration, and the development of arthritis.
For instance, when sitting for prolonged periods, use a supportive chair with proper lumbar support to maintain the natural curve of the lower back, reducing strain on the spinal discs and facet joints.
17. Engage Core Muscles
Strengthening the core muscles, including the abdominal and back muscles, can help support good posture. A strong core provides stability and enhances postural control, reducing the risk of slouching or adopting poor postural habits.
Engage in exercises that target the core muscles, such as Pilates or specific abdominal and back strengthening exercises recommended by a healthcare professional or qualified exercise specialist.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
18. Follow Moderate Alcohol Guidelines
Adhere to moderate alcohol consumption guidelines, which recommend limiting alcohol intake to a moderate level. In the UK, this means up to 14 units per week spread over several days for both men and women.
Moderation is crucial, as excessive alcohol consumption can have negative effects on joint health, increase inflammation, and contribute to other health problems. It is essential to consume alcohol in moderation and avoid binge drinking or excessive daily intake.
For example, spreading alcohol consumption throughout the week, having alcohol-free days, and keeping track of units can help individuals maintain moderation and minimise potential harm.
19. Consider Red Wine in Moderation
Moderate consumption of red wine, in particular, has been associated with potential health benefits due to its polyphenol content, including resveratrol. Resveratrol exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and may have protective effects on joint health.
However, it is important to note that the evidence regarding the direct effects of red wine or resveratrol on arthritis prevention is still limited. It should not serve as a reason to start drinking alcohol if you are a non-drinker or have medical conditions that contraindicate alcohol use.
If you choose to consume red wine, do so in moderation and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it aligns with your overall health goals and medical conditions.
20. Personalise Alcohol Consumption
Consider individual factors, such as overall health, medication use, and personal tolerance, when deciding on alcohol consumption. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol or may have specific medical conditions that contraindicate its use.
It’s important to remember that alcohol should never be seen as a primary treatment for arthritis or a substitute for other lifestyle modifications or medical interventions.
Practise Good Ergonomics
21. Set Up a Well-Designed Workspace
Create a well-designed workspace that promotes proper posture, joint alignment, and comfort. Arrange your desk, chair, computer, and other equipment to ensure optimal ergonomics.
Adjust your chair height so that your feet rest flat on the floor, and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Position your computer monitor at eye level to prevent neck strain and use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse to minimise wrist and hand discomfort.
For example, if you spend a significant amount of time working on a computer, consider using a monitor stand, an ergonomic chair with adjustable features, and a keyboard tray to maintain a neutral posture and reduce strain on your joints.
22. Take Microbreaks and Stretch
Incorporate regular microbreaks into your work routine to prevent prolonged periods of static posture and muscle fatigue. Every 30 minutes or so, take a short break to stand up, stretch, and change your body position.
Use this time to perform simple stretching exercises for your neck, shoulders, wrists, and back. Stretching improves circulation, relieves muscle tension, and helps maintain joint flexibility.
For instance, you can gently rotate your neck from side to side, roll your shoulders forward and backward, or perform wrist stretches by extending your arm and gently pulling back your fingers.
23. Use Proper Body Mechanics
Practise proper body mechanics during daily activities to minimise strain on your joints and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Whether you’re lifting, carrying, or performing any physical task, use your body correctly to avoid excessive stress on your joints.
Bend your knees and lift with your legs instead of your back when lifting heavy objects. Avoid twisting or reaching awkwardly, as it can strain your joints.
For example, if you’re carrying groceries, distribute the weight evenly between both arms and use a backpack or a trolley to minimise joint stress.
Consulting ergonomic specialists, occupational therapists, or healthcare professionals can provide personalised recommendations and guidance on optimising ergonomics for specific work environments and activities.
Wear supportive footwear
24. Choose Shoes with Adequate Support
Opt for shoes that provide adequate support, cushioning, and stability for your feet. Look for footwear with features such as arch support, shock absorption, and a firm heel counter.
Proper arch support helps distribute body weight evenly across the feet, reducing stress on the joints. Shock-absorbing properties help absorb impact forces during walking or other activities, minimising joint strain.
For example, consider shoes with built-in arch support or use orthotic inserts to provide additional support and cushioning, promoting proper foot alignment and reducing the risk of joint damage.
25. Ensure Proper Fit and Comfort
Ensure that your footwear fits properly and is comfortable to wear. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to foot deformities, abnormal gait patterns, and increased stress on the joints.
Choose shoes with ample toe room to avoid pressure on the toes and potential deformities. Make sure the shoes provide a snug fit around the heel and midfoot for stability.
For instance, when trying on shoes, make sure there is a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the shoe’s tip. Walk around and ensure that the shoes do not cause discomfort or rubbing.
26. Consider Specific Footwear for Arthritis
In some cases, individuals with arthritis may benefit from specific types of footwear designed to accommodate their needs. Shoes with features such as extra depth, wide toe boxes, or adjustable closures can accommodate swollen joints or foot deformities associated with arthritis.
Additionally, individuals with arthritis in the feet or ankles may find stability shoes or shoes with rocker soles helpful in improving gait mechanics and reducing joint pain during walking.
For example, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis might benefit from shoes with stretchable uppers or hook-and-loop closures that accommodate joint swelling and provide a customised fit.
Ensure Adequate Vitamin D Intake
27. Get Sufficient Sun Exposure
Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, and exposing your skin to sunlight can help your body produce vitamin D. Aim to spend time outdoors in sunlight, particularly during the midday when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Expose large areas of your skin, such as arms, legs, and face, to sunlight for about 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your skin type, time of year, and geographical location. Be mindful of sun protection measures to avoid overexposure and sunburn.
For instance, taking a walk outdoors during your lunch break or spending time in a sunny garden can provide an opportunity to absorb natural vitamin D from the sun.
28. Consume Vitamin D-Rich Foods
Include foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D or fortified with vitamin D in your diet. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources of vitamin D. Other food sources include fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and fortified cereals.
Consider incorporating these vitamin D-rich foods into your meals to support your overall vitamin D intake. If you have specific dietary restrictions or concerns, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised dietary advice.
For example, enjoying grilled salmon as a main course or adding fortified milk to your morning cereal can contribute to your vitamin D intake.
29. Consider Vitamin D Supplements
If you are unable to obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight or dietary sources, consider vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter and can help bridge the gap between dietary intake and optimal vitamin D levels.
Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and duration of vitamin D supplementation based on your individual needs, existing health conditions, and current vitamin D levels.
For instance, individuals who have limited sun exposure, those with darker skin, or those residing in regions with less sunlight may benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
Follow a Mediterranean Diet
30. Emphasise Plant-Based Foods
Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre that can help reduce inflammation and support overall health. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, choose whole grain options such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, and incorporate legumes like lentils and chickpeas into your diet.
For example, enjoy a colourful salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives as a side dish, or incorporate a variety of roasted vegetables into your main course.
31. Incorporate Healthy Fats
Include healthy fats in your diet, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon. These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce arthritis symptoms.
Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil, snack on a handful of nuts or seeds, and aim to consume fatty fish at least twice a week.
For instance, drizzle olive oil on your salads or use it for cooking, enjoy a handful of almonds or walnuts as a snack, or prepare a grilled salmon fillet with a side of steamed vegetables.
32. Limit Processed Foods and Red Meat
Reduce the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated fats. These foods are often linked to increased inflammation and may contribute to the development or progression of arthritis. Limit the intake of red meat and choose lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, legumes, and tofu. Reducing red meat consumption can help lower the intake of saturated fats and potentially reduce the risk of arthritis.
For example, replace processed snacks with fresh fruit, choose water or herbal tea instead of sugary beverages, and opt for plant-based protein sources like lentils or chickpeas instead of processed meats.
Consider Certain Supplements
33. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consider taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil or algae oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce arthritis-related inflammation and joint pain. Omega-3 supplements are available in capsule or liquid form. Look for supplements that are derived from high-quality sources and have been tested for purity and potency.
34. Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly used supplements for arthritis management. Glucosamine is involved in cartilage formation and repair, while chondroitin helps maintain cartilage structure and elasticity.
These supplements are often taken together and may help reduce arthritis symptoms, improve joint function, and slow down disease progression in some individuals.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin may vary among individuals, and it may take several weeks or months of consistent use to see potential benefits.
35. Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Consider supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin E, both of which have antioxidant properties that help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Vitamin C is involved in collagen synthesis, a key component of joint tissues, while vitamin E acts as a free radical scavenger, protecting cells from damage.
These vitamins can be obtained through a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but supplements may be useful for individuals with low dietary intake or specific nutritional needs.
Keep a Positive Attitude
36. Practice Self-Compassion and Acceptance
Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Accept the limitations and challenges that arthritis may bring and focus on what you can do rather than dwelling on what you can’t. Acknowledge and honour your emotions, allowing yourself to feel and express them. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups to share experiences and receive encouragement.
For example, instead of feeling frustrated about not being able to perform certain activities, celebrate the small victories and accomplishments along your journey.
37. Cultivate a Supportive Network
Surround yourself with a positive and supportive network of friends, family, or individuals who understand and empathise with your situation. Share your experiences, challenges, and triumphs with your support network. Seek encouragement, advice, and reassurance when needed.
Engage in activities or join support groups where you can connect with others who share similar experiences. Building a sense of belonging and support can positively impact your emotional well-being.
38. Engage in Stress-Reduction Techniques
Incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine. Find activities that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation. Explore mindfulness practices, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in hobbies and activities that uplift your spirits. Engaging in stress-reduction techniques can help lower stress hormones, promote a sense of calmness, and improve overall emotional well-being.
For example, spending time in nature, practising yoga or tai chi, listening to calming music, or engaging in creative pursuits can contribute to a positive mindset.
Remember, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions when dealing with arthritis, and maintaining a positive attitude doesn’t mean denying or suppressing negative emotions. It means approaching challenges with resilience, seeking support when needed, and focusing on the possibilities and joys that life still holds.
39. Seek Support and Manage Workload
Reach out for support when needed and practise effective stress management in your personal and professional life. Establish healthy boundaries, delegate tasks, and learn to say no when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can provide emotional assistance and practical guidance in managing stress. Talking to a mental health professional can also be beneficial in developing effective coping strategies.
For example, if work-related stress is a major contributor, consider speaking to your supervisor about workload management or exploring stress reduction techniques specific to the workplace.
Remember, finding the right stress management techniques may require experimentation, and it is essential to choose methods that work best for you. If stress persists or becomes overwhelming, seeking professional guidance from a healthcare professional or mental health specialist can provide additional support and strategies.
Please note that the information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. If you have specific concerns about arthritis prevention or management, please consult a healthcare professional.
- Your GP is a good first port of call if you think you may be suffering with the symptoms of arthritis. They can refer you to a specialist for tests, who can More information
If you’re suffering with shoulder pain, speak to your GP about a possible referral to a specialist.
- If you don’t have a GP, you can make an appointment with one of our same day private GPs.
- Our Physiotherapy Department is fully equipped and staffed by experts on hand to help you increase your mobility.
- Our Orthopaedic Surgery Department is a world famous centre of excellence for all orthopaedic surgeries including the symptoms of arthritis. To enquire about seeing a specialist, contact us to make an appointment to see one of our experts. then discuss your treatment options with you.