When you think of arthritis, you might picture someone a bit older. But the truth is it can affect people at any age.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, all of them different.¹ Even if you’re fit and well now, the habits you form early on can determine your health for life.
And – while staying active is a huge part of healthy joints, bones, and muscles – there's more to it than that! Find out how to help prevent different types of arthritis, as well as ways to manage it and get support if you’re a young adult living with arthritis.
Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. ²
The two most common types of arthritis are: ²
Arthritis can make your usual movement difficult or painful.
About 10 million people in the UK live with arthritis. It most often develops in those in their late 40s or older, but it can affect people of any age (including children). ³
There are many different types of arthritis beyond osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, although they’re the most common.
Some types, like osteoarthritis, occur with natural wear and tear of the cartilage, so they’re more likely to happen if you’re older.
Other types may be brought on by autoimmune illnesses, infections, or other types of illness. ⁴ And arthritis is genetic for some people.
Often, your risk of arthritis can be a mix of these things: for example, gout develops when there’s too much uric acid in your body. Sometimes you might have too much because of your diet, and sometimes your body naturally produces too much or can’t process it properly.
It’s not just a myth; slouching or sitting out of place could increase your risk of joint and bone-related conditions like arthritis.
Poor posture forces your body to overwork certain muscles. While it may only result in an occasional ache or pain short-term, prolonged bad posture (such as “nerd neck”, caused by sitting incorrectly at your desk) can cause inflammation that may lead to long-term damage in the nearby joints.¹²
In fact, for every inch you tilt your head forward, your spine takes on almost double the amount of pressure to support it.¹²
And sitting or standing with your joints misaligned (think leaning to one side or crossing your legs) places harmful pressure on them, potentially speeding up the “wear and tear” of the smooth cartilage between them.
There are many different types of arthritis, so the symptoms you could experience will be different.
However, you should seek medical advice if you have: ²
If it’s arthritis, your doctor should then be able to give you a more accurate diagnosis and discuss treatment options based on your individual symptoms.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis; it’s the most common type in the UK and may be the first kind you think of.
It happens when the cartilage between the joints wears down. This usually happens with age, but other factors – like the “wear and tear” we’ve spoken about above – contributes to it, too.
This can cause pain, inflammation, and restricted movement in the joints. Affected areas can become red and swollen, and sharp, bony growths might form around the joints. ¹⁴
The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it may be more likely to develop with age. Other factors may also increase your risk, like
But it’s just one type! Osteoarthritis can co-exist with other forms of arthritis, too – especially if the joint has become severely damaged. ¹⁴
Arthritis can affect any part of the body; we have hundreds of joints everywhere.
That said, some types of arthritis are more likely to affect particular areas of the body:
Different methods work for different people, so allow yourself the time you need to find what works for you, as well as the time to process the ways your life or your habits might be different to what you’re used to.
During a time where you feel expected to progress in work, hobbies, and social relationships, arthritis might leave you feeling held back.
For those even younger – such as children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) - it might affect their ability to play at school or feel like their peers.
You might want to consider joining a support group for young people and adults with arthritis, or asking for accommodations at work, school, or university.
With the right support and methods, it’s possible to manage your arthritis and stay as comfortable and active as possible.
But it’s best to practice good joint, bone, and muscle health habits now to help lower your risk and stay well.
Services like Versus Arthritis provide information and support for those with arthritis and their family and friends; find out what’s available in your area or call their free helpline on 0800 5200 520.
And our qualified advisors are on hand in store and online to give personalised, confidential advice – whether that’s on your physical health or the effects on your wellbeing. Book a free, 15-minute video chat with our experts to discuss anything to do with health and wellness that you might have on your mind.
Age doesn’t determine health, good or bad – so let’s stay active and keep doing the things we love wherever we can.
Last updated: 31 March 2023