The former Take That star, who set up Soccer Aid with a pal, raising more than £20million for Unicef UK, admitted in an interview: “I’ve got arthritis in my back so I can’t put my foot through a ball.” He added: “I have very tight hamstrings; barely existent calves. I dance like a drunk dad at a wedding but I’ve got to do something to fill the time on stage.”
While Robbie, 42, was able to joke about the impact the condition has had on his life, for the millions of Britons who suffer from arthritis, which causes pain and swelling in joints all over the body, living with it is no laughing matter.
It is also more common in women and those with a family history of the condition. However, it can occur at any age as a result of an injury and can be associated with other joint-related conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint, making movement more difficult, leading to pain and stiffness. As the cartilage lining starts to roughen and become thinner, tendons and ligaments are forced to work harder.
This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs called osteophytes. Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position. The other main type is rheumatoid arthritis which affects more than 400,000 people in the UK.
This autumn, Arthritis Research UK is asking those living with arthritis to share their tips on how they cope with the condition and make everyday life more manageable. Tips already given include placing high stools around the home and in the garden to allow short rest intervals and prevent overuse of painful joints.
One 58-year-old osteoarthritis sufferer said getting an electric bike had been responsible for keeping her fit and active, while taking the pressure off her knees. Another contributor said she had found that using a tennis ball helped relax her back and shoulder muscles.
She wrote: “I position the ball between my back and a wall and wriggle around till I hit a trigger point, then I lean gently until the pain goes.”
Make sure you get enough omega 3 oils in your diet as they lower joint inflammation
1. Try not to sit for longer than half an hour at a time: Sitting for too long can cause your joints to seize up and lead to inactivity. You could even set your watch or phone to buzz every 30 minutes to remind you to get up and move, or if you’re watching TV, train yourself to get up and make a cup of tea or get a glass of water during the advert breaks.
2. Be active for 30 minutes a day: Try to incorporate 30 minutes of physical movement a day that gets up your heart rate, such as swimming or cycling. This will make everyday movement easier in the long run because if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose tone and function.
3. Keep an eye on your weight: Try to maintain a healthy weight for your height as extra weight increases pressure on joints such as your knees.
4. Give up smoking for good: Research has shown that it increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Swollen gums (periodontitis) are a source of inflammation and can contribute to joint damage
6. Eat oily fish: Make sure you get enough omega 3 oils in your diet as they lower inflammation to protect your joints. The current recommendation in the UK is two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish.
7. Consider a vitamin D supplement in the winter months: In the UK, look at taking a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms a day between September and March, if you don’t get out and about in the sunshine.
8. Say “no” to the lift: A small change to build strength and muscle while staying active is to take the stairs instead of the lift.
9. Love your gums: Swollen gums (periodontitis) are a source of inflammation and can contribute to joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis. A common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis 150 years ago was to remove your teeth. If you have periodontitis ask your dentist for advice on preventing it.
The cause could be something as simple as inaccurate brushing, as joint stiffness can make it harder to get to all the surfaces of our teeth as we age.