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What is arthritis?

The different types of musculoskeletal conditions fall into five main groups:

  • inflammatory arthritis
  • degenerative or mechanical arthritis
  • soft tissue musculoskeletal pain
  • back pain
  • connective tissue disease (CTD).
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What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Different types of arthritis can cause a wide range of symptoms, including pain and stiffness. But you should seek advice from your doctor if:

  • the pain isn't linked to an injury or if the pain persists
  • you feel unwell or have a fever
  • you can't do everyday tasks due to joint or muscle pain
  • your back hurts after lifting something heavy, and taking painkillers, applying heat and trying to stay active for a day or so hasn’t helped
  • you experience swelling, stiffness or a painful ‘squeeze’ in your joints.
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Who gets arthritis?

Arthritis affects people regardless of age, sex, financial income or race, although many people who are affected won’t have persistent or severe symptoms.

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What causes arthritis?

Most types of arthritis are caused by many factors acting together. To a small extent most forms of arthritis run in families, and sometimes something in your lifestyle or medical history could increase your risk further if you’re already susceptible to the condition. But for many conditions there’s a strong element of chance. Read more >

What is the outlook for arthritis?

Arthritis can affect you in different ways, which can make it difficult to predict a clear outcome. Many types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are long-term conditions, but most people with arthritis don’t have major mobility problems. Even in more severe cases, effective treatment will help reduce the risk of disability or joint damage. Read more >

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose your arthritis by asking you about your symptoms and how they’ve developed, examining you and possibly arranging for tests to clarify things. Tests could include:
  • blood tests
  • x-rays
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised tomography (CT) and ultrasound scans
  • synovial fluid analysis
  • a biopsy
  • a urine test.
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What are the treatments for arthritis?

Treatments for arthritis may include a combination of the following:
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Who will be involved in my treatment?

You may need to see some of the following people during your diagnosis and treatment:
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Self-help and daily living for arthritis

Alongside taking prescribed medication and attending appointments with healthcare professionals, there are many ways that you can help yourself if you have arthritis, including:
Read more >


Photo of Christine Walker

Give today to help fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis so that people like Christine can live a pain-free, active life.

For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.