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Exercise is good for people with wear-and-tear joint arthritis and should be a “core treatment”, new draft guidelines for the NHS advise.

It may hurt to begin with, but can then ease pain and help individuals with osteoarthritis stay supple, healthy and slim, says the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Scans aren’t needed to diagnose it and strong painkillers are not recommended.

There is no evidence flushing out the joint helps either.

Wear and tear

Osteoarthritis is very common – about 7.4 million people in England over the age of 45 have it.

It can happen when the joints become damaged with age and injury. Being overweight is another risk factor.

Some people have mild symptoms. For others the pain, stiffness and swelling can be severe.

That can make exercising difficult, but according to the new NICE guidelines, physical activity should be the main treatment – not painkillers.

The charity Arthritis Action said it hoped the guidelines would reassure people with osteoarthritis that exercise is a good intervention.

Spokeswoman Dr Wendy Holden said: “Many wrongly believe that exercise can harm the joints, so this guidance is very important and will hopefully empower patients, and give them more confidence to make healthy lifestyle changes that will really help improve their pain and quality of life.”

What helps

Exercise builds muscles and can help people maintain a healthy weight, which is important for managing osteoarthritis.

If there is pain, consider using an anti-inflammatory cream or gel or taking an ibuprofen or similar type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine, but not a strong opioid, says the advice.

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