A world where people can live active lives, free from arthritis pain


Dr Wendy Holden, Consultant Rheumatologist at North Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Medical Advisor, Arthritis Action

Background Reading



Around one in seven people in the UK currently live with arthritis...

...and this is expected to rise to one in four by 2030 [1]. It is the leading cause of pain and disability, and costs the United Kingdom a staggering £5billion a year [2] to manage.

One in five people consult their GP about a musculoskeletal problem such as arthritis each year; that’s more than 100,000 arthritis consultations every day [3]. What most people don’t know is that arthritis also affects children; around 15,000 children and young people live with the condition [4].

October the 12th of this year marked the 20th World Arthritis Day, a critical moment in the history of the condition. It is hoped that this event will help to focus the world’s attention on the plight of millions who have both compromised mobility and chronic pain due to their condition.

Established by Arthritis and Rheumatism International (ARI), World Arthritis Day is a global initiative that aims to raise awareness amongst healthcare practitioners, leaders and policymakers of the burden of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) and the steps which can be taken to ease it. Across the sector, eminent doctors and health professionals have been calling for musculoskeletal conditions to be seen as a priority for many years. Arthritis Action is adding its voice to those calls.

Self Management

Whilst a great deal of research goes into the prevalence, treatment and diagnosis of arthritis, it is important to highlight the significant role of self-management in coping with arthritis.

To mark our launch in June, Arthritis Action published new research; this showed that people with arthritis feel isolated, scared about the future, and don’t want to ask family, friends or doctors for help [5].

The researchers surveyed 777 people living with arthritis (both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis) and held in-depth interviews with GPs and senior public health professionals. Interestingly, around half of our survey respondents felt that they needed to take charge of self-managing their condition because the NHS is over-stretched.

The research also revealed that the care pathway for osteoarthritis is particularly limited. The main gaps are in physical therapies and pain-clinics, with long waiting times often meaning that the patient does not receive the required treatment during a flare-up of their condition.

There is increasing recognition by GPs that mental wellbeing and preventing social isolation is an important part of patients’ management of arthritis, but counselling, therapy and social support services are lacking and need to be better integrated with medical care.

Furthermore, GPs acknowledge that much of osteoarthritis management relies on patients’ self-management of their condition, which only reinforces the very reason Arthritis Action was born: to help people with arthritis better manage their condition and endure less pain.

Our self-management approach helps people with arthritis take early action against its onset, manage the pain it can cause and enjoy life to the full. Arthritis Action gives members access to physical therapies in their area, alongside exercise, healthy eating, weight management advice and individual support.

Candida Doyle, one of our long-time members and former keyboard player for the band Pulp, describes her experience with arthritis and the significance of awareness days in raising its profile both nationally and globally:

 “I experienced stiffness, a dry mouth, and a lost appetite a month after my 16th birthday. One-and-a-half years later I was diagnosed with arthritis by a rheumatologist and was told that I could be in a wheelchair by the time I’m 20. This was very hard to hear. I was in denial between the ages of 16-30 and didn’t tell anyone.

“At the age of 39 I stopped playing with Pulp and travelled around the world. Twelve years on and I’ve now almost come to accept the fact that I have arthritis, and I am still sorting out how I feel about it. I do tai chi, yoga, and see an osteopath, which all help me with my arthritis. A friend put me in touch with Arthritis Action and I liked its simplicity and its practical day-to-day approach of dealing with arthritis. Awareness days such as World Arthritis Day are important as they give us the chance to reach people and say that you can have a life with arthritis – it’s not the end of the world – and that there’s help available.”

My message to the healthcare community on World Arthritis Day is to be brave and bold. It is time for all healthcare stakeholders to address arthritis as a priority.

It is time for a step change in the way we view arthritis, time to give people living in pain a voice, and importantly, time to listen to what they have to say.