Arthritis Information

September is Arthritis Month.

Talk to your pharmacist about how they can help.



Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in Canada!

Arthritis is a term that describes a group of over 100 diseases where people experience inflammation (swelling, pain, redness or stiffness) in their joints or other areas of their body. Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to significant damage in those areas, causing a loss of function and disability.

Arthritis can involve almost any part of the body. Most often it affects hips, knees, the spine or other weight-bearing joints, but also fingers and other non-weight-bearing joints. Some forms of arthritis can also affect other parts of the body.

Arthritis is a chronic condition: it affects people on a constant or recurring basis over months, years, or even a lifetime. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Many forms of arthritis can lead to disability, leaving people unable to work for periods of time.

Arthritis conditions are grouped into two different categories: osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis.



Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 1 in 10 adults. It is most common in people over 60 years of age, and women are two times more likely to have osteoarthritis than men.

Osteoarthritis causes a breakdown in the cartilage (the material that protects the end of bones), which leads to bone on bone contact causing pain, stiffness, decreased ability to move those joints and inflammation. Osteoarthritis mostly affects the joints in the knees, hips, the spine and hands.

There are many risk factors related to developing osteoarthritis. They include a family history of osteoarthritis (genetics), increasing age, obesity, muscle weakness, history of joint injury and overuse, participation in certain sports, your sex, and other types of inflammatory arthritis.

The good news is the risk for developing osteoarthritis can be reduced by making changes in your lifestyle. Staying a healthy weight, doing strengthening exercises and avoiding high impact activities can help decrease your chances for having osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is hard to live with. The majority of people with osteoarthritis have some form of disability and experience pain, fatigue and decreased functioning. Osteoarthritis can make it difficult to open jars, hold utensils, get out of a chair, shovel, stand in the shower, walk up stairs, sleep, open heavy doors, use a computer, or use tools.


Treatments for Osteoarthritis

Non-Medication related therapies

  • Use assistive devices around the house
  • Participate in aquatic and aerobic exercises
  • Lose weight
  • Use walking aids
  • Use insoles
  • Accupunture
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation
  • Receive manual therapy (physiotherapist)
  • Stretching
  • Exercise is the cornerstone of managing osteoarthritis. People with osteoarthritis that exercise have less pain, improved function, and better quality of life. Avoiding exercise can actually increase stiffness and decrease function of those joints.


Medication therapies

  • Medication therapies for osteoarthritis depend on what joints are affected, how severe symptoms are, and other medical conditions.
  • Medications available without prescription: topical capsaicin, topical anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and oral anti-inflammatories.
  • Medications requiring a prescription: oral anti-inflammatories, tramadol, corticosteroid injections, and duloxetine.
  • Medications should always be discussed with your pharmacist or physician before taking to be sure they are appropriate for you and the type of osteoarthritis you have.


Inflammatory Arthritis

Is a group of autoimmune disorders where a person’s own antibodies or immune system starts to attack the lining of the joints, and sometimes other organs. This causes inflammation, swelling, pain, restricted mobility, fatigue and damage to joints. The most common type of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Other types include lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Inflammatory arthritis needs to be identified and treated quickly to slow progression of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1 in 100 adults in Canada. It affects women two to three times more often than men, and can affect anyone at any age, although it is more prevalent in people over 60 years of age.

Early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis include morning stiffness lasting more than 60 minutes, swelling in hand, wrist or finger joints, the same joints being affected on both sides of the body, warmth or redness over joints, and feeling unwell or tired.

Rheumatoid arthritis may affect joints in the hands, wrists, feet, shoulders, elbows, ankles, knees, hips, and spine.  It may also affect other body systems like the heart or lungs.

Risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis include a family history (genetics), smoking, your sex, infections (viral or bacterial), age (increases with age, notably after 55 years), diet, and nationality (this is the most prevalent chronic disease in First Nations people).

Rheumatoid arthritis has a significant impact on daily living. It causes pain, stiffness, fatigue and loss of function. This affects the ability again to open bottles, get dressed, or turn door knobs. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis will cause a disability that will impact an ability to work within 10 years of a diagnosis.


Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Non-Medication related therapies

  • Using assistive devices around the house
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Surgery


Medication Therapy

  • The goal is to start treatment as soon as possible to control disease activity and prevent joint damage to maintain function. Treating rheumatoid arthritis quickly will improve long term outcomes and quality of life.
  • Treatment always requires prescription medication therapy.  These medications are very complex and require discussion with your pharmacist and physician.


Helpful Links

What is Arthritis:

Risk factors for Arthritis:

Signs of Arthritis:

Medications to treat Arthritis:

Pain and pain management (including non-drug pain management):

Arthritis educational or supportive events:
Medications to treat Inflammatory Arthritis: