If paracetamol won’t help with joint pain, what will?

New research published in The Lancet has suggested that paracetmol, commonly prescribed to help with the discomfort and joint pain associated with osteoarthritis, is largely ineffective, even in large doses which are then accompanied by potential side effects.

Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal condition affecting older people – it’s estimated that one in ten men and one in five women over age of 60 are suffering from this type of arthritis. Here in the East of England, Arthritis Research UK has collated figures for hip and knee osteoarthritis and 17.8 per cent of the Cambridgeshire population aged 45 years and over are suffering from knee inflammation and 10.7 per cent are estimated to have arthritis of the hip.

With a high percentage of those men and women categorised with severe osteoarthritis and paracetamol determined as ineffective, what can be done to manage the pain and stiffness that can limit the sufferer’s ability to perform even simple tasks:

# 1 Other medications

Researchers at the University of Bern, Switzerland, that carried out the study into paracetamol found that non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, specifically diclofenac, was the most effective osteoarthritis treatment. However, long-term use of this drug is discouraged and it is only suitable for occasional joint pain relief.

# 2 Muscle strengthening exercise

According to the latest guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), exercise should be the ‘core treatment for managing osteoarthritis’, both to relieve joint pain and also to improve function and mobility.

Stronger muscles can take stress off our joints, but there may be initial resistance, stiffness and pain, and your natural response might be to give up. Seek expert advice from a Sports & Exercise Medicine specialist who can prescribe a programme that will ensure your joints become more flexible and better protected by the supporting muscles.

# 3 Lifestyle changes

Also included in NICE’s recently updated guidelines was the importance of the osteoarthritis sufferer making fundamental lifestyle changes, particularly losing weight if overweight or obese.

If osteoarthritis is impacting on your quality of life then Professor Cathy Speed can provide advice and treatment for the management of this serious condition. To book a consultation at her Cambridge clinic call 01223 200 595.