More than half a million New Zealanders will be affected by arthritis at some time in their life. For some people, this diagnosis may mean considerable changes to the way they lead their life. Consider these facts:

  • Arthritis is a serious health condition with no known cure
  • Arthritis is the single greatest cause of disability in New Zealand
  • More than half a million people are affected by arthritis during their lifetime
  • 25,440 New Zealanders will not be able to work this year due to their arthritis
  • Women get arthritis more than men
  • There are more than 140 different types of arthritis
  • Sports and other injuries can lead to arthritis
  • You can do a lot for yourself to make coping with arthritis easier

Aches and pains are no strangers to most of us - so how do you know whether you are at risk of getting arthritis? You are more likely to get arthritis if:

  • you have a family history of arthritis
  • you have had a joint injury or joint infection
  • you have worked in a heavy physical occupation
  • you are in an older age group
  • you are obese
  • you are female

You may have arthritis if:

  • you have pain and stiffness in one or more joints
  • you have early morning stiffness in one or more joints
  • you have recurring pain, tenderness, or swelling in one or more joints
  • you have overall aching, joint stiffness, and fatigue
  • you have muscle weakness associated with joint stiffness
  • you have difficulty doing daily tasks

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your Doctor. There is a lot which can be done for the more than half a million New Zealanders with arthritis. (From Arthritis New Zealand website).

Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA is the most common type of arthritis and will affect one in six New Zealanders over the age of 15 years. OA most commonly affects the weight bearing and mobile joints such as the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, hands, knees, ankles and toes.

In a joint where OA occurs the cartilage thins and becomes worn and rough. This results in reduction of movement in the joint. The bones lose their shape and thicken at the end often producing bony spurs.

The signs of OA are:

  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Pain and/or swelling in or near the joint
  • Muscle weakness
  • Creaking or a cracking sensation of the joint

OA can develop gradually. It generally starts with stiffness in the joints in the mornings or after short rests. There is loss in range of movement in fingers, shoulders, neck, hip and knees. This creates difficulties with usual daily activities such as grooming, walking, household tasks and sometimes employment related activities.

Although there is no cure for OA it can be managed. Ways to manage and relieve your symptoms include pain medication, exercise, joint protection and lifestyle adjustments.

Arthritis New Zealand provides an Arthritis Educator Service to assist in managing this condition including FREE Clinics in various locations throughout New Zealand. They can assist you in

  • Understanding your Diagnosis
  • Managing your pain
  • Considering treatment options
  • Understanding your medications
  • Increasing your mobility
  • Referring you to other Health Professionals

For more information phone 0800 663 463 or visit their website

The cost of arthritis in New Zealand

A major report, the Economic Cost of Arthritis in New Zealand 2018, was launched in parliament in September by Arthritis New Zealand. The findings in the report have major implications for how arthritis is managed in the health system. in particular, it shows that arthritis is a growing health issue for people of working age and it has a significant impact on Māori and Pacific.

Websites of interest

  • Arthritis New Zealand has a very information website
  • The Arthritis Foundation is an American not-for-profit organisation that supports the more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.
  • Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis: This booklet is for people who have osteoarthritis, their families, and others interested in learning more about the disorder. The booklet describes osteoarthritis and its symptoms and contains information about diagnosis and treatment. It also discusses pain relief, exercise, and quality of life for people with osteoarthritis. Published July 2010.

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