Healthier lifestyle can help to ease osteoarthritis symptoms, according to new NICE draft updated guidelines on the care and management of people with the condition.

Clinical evidence shows that when people with osteoarthritis are offered tailored exercises, such as muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise, they can achieve good health outcomes.

Healthcare professionals should support people with osteoarthritis and who are overweight by helping them choose a weight loss goal to help manage symptoms. Losing weight can have a significant impact on health outcomes for a range of conditions, but it can also help to reduce joint pain for people with osteoarthritis.

The draft guideline recommends healthcare professionals consider exercise alongside providing evidence-based information to people with the condition to help support them in a structured way.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director for the Centre for Guidelines at NICE said:“Osteoarthritis can cause people discomfort and prevent them from undertaking some of their normal daily activities. However, there is evidence which shows muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise can have an impact on not just managing the condition, but also providing people with an improved quality of life. Beginning that journey can be uncomfortable for some people at first, and they should be supported and provided with enough information to help them to manage their condition over a long period of time.

“Whilst topical and sometimes oral NSAIDs remain an important treatment option for osteoarthritis, we have taken the decision to not recommend some painkillers, such as paracetamol and some opioids for osteoarthritis. This is because new evidence has shown there was little or no benefit to people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress and particularly in the case of strong opioids, there was evidence that they can cause harm in the longer term, including possible addiction.”

7.4 million people in England have osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is caused by changes in the whole joint that can cause discomfort and pain. Osteoarthritis can mean people have a reduced quality of life. It is the most common form of arthritis, and one of the leading causes of pain and disability worldwide. It is estimated there are approximately 7.4 million people in England over the age of 45 identified as having osteoarthritis.

The most affected joints are the knees, hips and small hand joints.

The draft guideline also recommends diagnosing osteoarthritis clinically without the need for imaging in people who are over 45, have activity-related joint pain and, have either no morning joint related stiffness or morning stiffness that lasts no longer than 30 minutes.

The draft guideline is now open for public consultation until 15th June 2022