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Visit our orthopaedic care hub

7 ways to lower your risk of developing arthritis

About arthritis

Mr Panos Gikas, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, shares his expert insight suggesting seven ways in which the risk of developing arthritis can be mitigated.

Arthritis is a musculoskeletal condition which causes inflammation within the joints. 

 

The condition affects different areas of the body, including the hip, knee, hands and spine. For many sufferers, arthritis can be debilitating and have a significant impact on day-to-day routines – with common symptoms including: severe joint pain, stiffness, inflammation, and a restriction of movement around the affected areas. 

 

It is estimated around 10 million people in the UK will suffer with arthritis during their lifetime. Although it is typically seen as a condition which impacts older people, the truth is anyone can develop it – including children.

 

There are multiple factors which can cause an individual to develop arthritis. Some people will develop the condition due to genetic reasons however, for others the onset of arthritis can be linked to lifestyle factors. For those with a genetic pre-disposition to arthritis, the best way to tackle is through careful management – including medication, physical therapy and in some instances, surgery. However, it is important to highlight that if you do not have a hereditary link to the condition, then there are a number of ways in which you can lower your risk of ever developing it. 

 

 

A good range of movement is imperative

In order to reduce the risk of receiving an arthritis diagnosis, it is very important that all individuals retain a good range of physical movement through regular exercise. There is a common misconception that the onset of arthritis is brought about by people "wearing" their joints out as a result of too much physical activity.

However, this thinking is very outdated and we now understand the importance of keeping the body physically mobile for as long as possible. Studies that have evaluated the relationship between regular recreational exercise and osteoarthritis of the knee generally found no ill effects.

If the onset of arthritis was directly linked to wearing out joints through exercise then we would expect to see the majority of professional athletes and sports people developing the condition however, this is not the case. Unfortunately there has been confusion around the role exercise plays, but it is imperative that everyone keeps active in order to maintain their range of movement.

However don't overdo it

While regular exercise, at all ages, is essential for lowering the risk of arthritis, it is also important to stress that over-doing exercise can be detrimental. Keeping fit and healthy is essential, but actively doing an exercise or activity which over exerts the joints could cause problems and ultimately lead to the onset of the condition.

 

What is clear from available data is that the risk of osteoarthritis relates more to the intensity of the level of sport participation (elite vs recreational) and more importantly the presence and or likelihood of joint injury.

 

A moderate level of exercise, five times a week, is perfect for most individuals and will ensure that the joints remain healthy.

Be mindful of musculoskeletal strength

Another important factor that everyone should be aware of in order to reduce the risk of developing arthritis, is maintaining good musculoskeletal strength. Again, this is achieved by regular, moderate exercise which will help to keep the bones and joints healthy, and should be carried out by people of all ages.


In addition to helping prevent arthritis, good muscular strength can help to lessen the chances of lower back problems, osteoporotic fractures and other muscular-based injuries.

Body weight is key

Going hand-in-hand with regular exercise, another key way in which people can lower their risk of arthritis is by maintaining a healthy body weight. When you exercise, the amount of pressure felt by your knee joint is estimated as being the equivalent of seven times your body weight.

 

Therefore, if body weight is kept at the lower end of the healthy BMI (body mass index) range, then you will put less pressure on your joints, and subsequently reduce the risk of causing a problem. A healthy BMI is between 18.5-25.

Watch your diet

What you fuel your body with can also have an impact on whether or not you are at risk of developing arthritis. Not only should you be mindful of diet in terms of your body weight, it is also important to understand that certain foods/groups can trigger inflammation – the primary cause of arthritis.

Foods/types of foods to watch out for include sugar, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, gluten, and alcohol. Try to keep to a diet which is rich in good fats, such as fish, avocado and nuts/seeds.

Steer away from injury

It sounds obvious, but in order to reduce the risk of arthritis, try to avoid injuries to your bones and joints – either through playing sports/exercising or in day-to-day life. If you sustain a cartilage-based injury within a joint then it can cause it to wear out much quicker than it would do otherwise.


The risk of joint injuries can increase depending on the level of participation in a sport*, so if you are an ‘avid’ exerciser or perform to an elite level then make sure you always use the correct equipment when playing sports, and ensure that when exercising, you are using the correct techniques.

Seek help if needed

If an injury is sustained, seeking specialist medical advice as soon as possible is very important in order to reduce the risk of arthritis. Repetitive traumas are a key driver of the condition, so if you do not get an injury treated properly from the outset, then you could cause yourself significant damage further down the line.


A doctor will be able to assess your injury and recommend the best course of action – this could include physical therapy, dietary changes, or exercises to help rebuild strength.

Hannah et al. 1993; Panush et al. 1995

About The Lister Hospital

Based in Chelsea, south west London, The Lister Hospital provides high-quality care for a wide range health conditions including orthopaedics, gastroenterlogy and women's health.

Appointment are available same or next day, including diagnostic tests, scanning and screening appointments.

The Lister Hospital also offers appointment at its local outpatient and diagnostic centres through south west London at Sydney Street, the Chelsea Medical Centre and Chelsea Outpatients Centre.

Need more information?

If our blog has been helpful and you would like more information about the services available, please call us or complete our online form. Our team can also book an appointment with a consultant.

020 7079 4344
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