Hi, I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine and have already had a total hip replacement in 2017 at the age of 48. I was also diagnosed with osteochondritis in my elbows at the age of 12 which I was told would resolve itself. I am now 52 and forty years on I now have arthritis (wear and tear) in my elbows with quite a large osteophyte in the left elbow. Both elbows are painful and constantly lock and crack particularly when I am trying to rest in the evenings. I have been told that the condition can only be managed with painkillers and anti inflammatory drugs and moderate exercise. Is there any other alternative as I really don’t feel it is healthy to take painkillers every day?


  • Hi @Maxine9

    Thanks for your post to the Helpline.

    I really appreciate that you may want to be cautious about your use of painkillers and anti-inflammatories to help manage your OA. You may well find it helpful to try the living with arthritis part of the community to hear other people's hints and tips.

    Because you have had issues for a long time, forgive me if I begin with a couple of foundation points - and they are keeping moving and healthy eating.

    The evidence supporting exercise for example is very strong. One point might be - it's really worth reviewing any of your exercise routines if your pain changes/worsens. A good person to help would be a physiotherapist.

    If you enjoy exercise in water, is it in your weekly routines for example? If you don't enjoy certain kinds of exercise - try to focus on the things that suit you instead. And everyday things like housework or shopping all count as keeping moving.

    And with healthy eating - it's important to focus on things which you enjoy - but plenty of fruit and veg and being wary of junk food (for hidden sugar or fat) are points you might want to consider.

    There really is a role for pain medication, so don't see using it as good or bad. For example some pain medication may help you to get moving so that your muscles get stronger.

    Someone medically qualified may be able to support you to think about ways of using medication for best effect - a good example might be trying a rub-on medication that works on a specific area, that helps you to use less of the drug.

    Painkillers and NSAIDs | Side-effects, uses, time to work (versusarthritis.org)

    Exercising with arthritis | Top tips, specific exercises (versusarthritis.org)

    Eating well with arthritis | healthy eating for people with arthritis (versusarthritis.org)

    I wonder if you'd like to talk about this? You'd be really welcome to ring us on our freephone 08005200520 9am - 6pm Mon-Fri.

    All the best

    Guy - Helpline Team

  • Maxine9
    Maxine9 Member Posts: 6

    Thank you for your response, apologies I have only just read it as I don’t seem to get notifications. I will take on board your comments, I do walk twice a day with my dog which helps and am very conscious of eating well. I used to be very active, member of a gym and did fitness classes several times a week but find it a little difficult now so my exercise is much more low key 😊. I intend to find a local Pilates class as I think this would help.

    I think what I find difficult is that it’s such an invisible condition that people don’t understand and there are times when I’m just exhausted and can’t find the energy to do things and it can appear that I just can’t be bothered which is really not the case! It is helping reading comments and articles on this website though but I still think that there isn’t enough awareness around what doctors refer to as “wear and tear” which really trivialises what can be quite an exhausting condition at times.

  • Hi @Maxine9

    Thanks for getting back to us.  Some factors, such as have having conditions like osteochondritis in your joints earlier in life can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA) in later life.

    You clearly have a good understanding of the self-management aspects of living with OA, including keeping moving and healthy eating.  I hope you find the information Guy provided helpful.  

    You can find some more specific information about managing OA in the elbows here:  

    You may wish to ask your GP for capsaicin cream. This is a drug-free, effective, and very well-tolerated painkiller which is available on prescription from your GP and is very effective for OA. It works mainly by reducing a pain transmitter in the nerves.  It doesn’t provide instant relief though – it builds up in the system and people usually notice a difference within a week or so of starting it.

    You can read more about it and the randomised controlled trials in which it was given a score of 5/5 for effectiveness for treating pain due to osteoarthritis of the knee and hand here (it can also be used in other joints):

    As Guy said, you’re very welcome to call us on our freephone helpline: 0800 5200 520 so you can talk things through with one of our helpline team. We can explain the capsaicin cream in more detail to help you have a more informed discussion with your GP about whether it’s right for you.

    You may also wish to opt in the Let's Move to receive updates about online exercise classes, including pilates. You may also like to look at our information about managing fatigue (under managing symptoms on the website).

    I hope this is helpful.

    Best wishes


    Helpline Team

  • Maxine9
    Maxine9 Member Posts: 6

    Thank you, that’s really helpful - I will discuss with my GP as it’s never been suggested before. It’s so painful sometimes in the evenings trying to get comfortable, if I keep my arms in one position too long they lock and I have to force them through quite a painful crack to straighten them out again! Maybe this ointment will help with that…it’s definitely worth a try 😊