Get help with the cost of living

Support for people with arthritis

Living with arthritis can bring about extra costs, and we know that for many people the cost-of-living crisis is only making things harder. We're entering quite a difficult time when it comes to our energy bills and increase in the cost of living, and this may have caused you some concerns.

We can offer help and advice for those with arthritis and musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. We’ve gathered as many resources as possible to help you during these challenging times.

Government support

The UK government is providing all households with support for energy bills for a further 12 months. Read more about the Energy Price Guarantee and what this means for you.

You may also be entitled to the Cost of Living Payment or certain benefits.

The latest updates on UK government support can be found on the Help for Households website. And from the Scottish government on the Cost of Living website.

New government announcements

In November 2022 the government outlined plans for tax and spending for the next year and further into the future.

The statement was mostly about England, although some announcements were made about extra money for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So, what do we make of it all?

Reducing the cost of pain medicine

Many people with arthritis take pain medications, such as ibuprofen, to help treat their pain. But you don’t have to splash out on expensive brands.

Supermarkets and pharmacies often sell own-branded painkillers, which are just as effective.

These pills are generic. This means that the ingredients are the same and they’re just as effective, but come at a fraction of the cost of the branded versions.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, pain medicines including ibuprofen can be prescribed free of charge.

If you live in England and pay prescription charges, it might also be worth finding out more about the prescription pre-payment certificate (PPC). A 3-month or 12-month PPC covers all your prescriptions for that period, no matter how many you receive. Find out more about how to get a prescription prepayment certificate (PCC).

 

Rubs, gels and creams

Lots of people rub things on their joints for relief and some of these products can be quite expensive.

In some cases, the rubbing itself is what provides the relief from pain and discomfort, so instead of expensive branded creams you could try warm olive oil instead.

If you’re using gels/creams that contain anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen or Voltarol gel, switch to own-branded products that you can buy in supermarkets or pharmacies.

Applying heat or ice packs

You may have tried, or regularly use some of the cooling and heating sprays or creams that are available to buy. Some people find these helpful, though the evidence of benefit isn’t very convincing.

Instead of these, buy a reusable hot/cold pack which you can heat in the microwave or cool in the freezer. Why? These may be more effective as they actually heat or cool the tissues and change blood flow, whereas the sprays or creams just create that sensation on the surface of the skin.

They also work out cheaper in the long run and are less wasteful than sprays and therefore better for the environment too.

Stop or reduce food supplements

A lot of people take supplements hoping they can help with their arthritis, including glucosamine, chondroitin and others. If you read the labels carefully you’ll see that these supplements don’t make any specific claims about benefits, and there is little if any robust evidence that they can help with the symptoms of arthritis.

The one exception may be omega-3 fatty acid supplements, specifically for people with rheumatoid arthritis, where there is some evidence of benefit.

If you already take supplements, then try coming off them for a few weeks and see if you feel any different.

Exercise for less

It’s important to stay active if you have arthritis. But you don’t have to pay for expensive equipment or a gym to get more movement in your life.

Simply walking regularly can help arthritis pain, not just in the legs but even elsewhere in the body. Start with small amounts and build up. If you find your legs are sore after walking, reduce the distance a bit.

If you’d like to do more strength-based training, you could buy some simple weights that you can use at home, such as wrist or ankle weights. You could even hold simple household items while exercising, such as a small water bottle or a tin of beans.

Some people find structured exercises helpful, such as T’ai Chi. But exercise classes and groups can be expensive. We offer a great selection of free online exercise videos and you can subscribe to the Versus Arthritis YouTube channel for our latest videos.

You can also find a supportive community at our Let’s Move Facebook group.

Check claims before you buy

As many of you will know, lots of people are promoting a lot of products for sale that claim to help arthritis. The cost of these items can add up, and very few of these have robust evidence.

So before you hit that ‘buy now’ button, check with authoritative sources whether this is likely to help. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces the definitive NICE guidelines for what works in arthritis, written in a way that the public can read.

Help with energy and water bills

When it comes to your heating bills you can find help from:

For help managing your water bills, the Citizens advice Watersure scheme supports individuals on benefits who use a lot of water due to medical conditions and other criteria.

You can also talk to the Consumer council for water and check if your water supplier has a hardship scheme.

Benefits and debt advice

Citizens Advice provide lots of information on grants and benefits you might be able to claim - including the Cost of Living Payment scheme.

Turn2Us can provide advice on benefits and grants you might be able to apply for.

If you find yourself in debt, these organisations may be able to help:

Food and eating

One of the biggest worries when it comes to saving money and cutting back is eating well. Here are some resources to help out:

Other support services

If you're struggling with your mental health you can speak to Mind or the Samaritans or the Mental Health & Money Advice service.