How to reduce costs of living with arthritis

Pain medicines for less

Some people use tablets such as ibuprofen to manage their arthritis. In fact, all anti-inflammatory medications that don’t contain steroids are recommended by NICE as a treatment.

Supermarkets and many pharmacies sell own-branded tablets. Because the pills are generic, the ingredients are the same and they’re just as effective, but without the advertising and fancy, more brightly coloured packaging – and they come at a fraction of the cost of the branded equivalents.

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).

Realistic rubs

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.

Pad it out

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 the supplements

Supplements are a huge market in the health industry. A lot of people take them 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.

Move more for less: Get walking

Simple regular walking can help arthritis pain, not just in the legs but even elsewhere in the body. There are lots of other potential benefits too, with walking more offering a reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers, and better overall mental health.

You don’t need to start big however. Start with small amounts and build up. If you find your legs are sore after walking, reduce the distance a bit to start with and maybe add some leg exercises, like:

Tailored stretching: Knee exercises (for arthritis and joint pain) - YouTube

If you fancy doing this with others, but don’t know anyone else who you’d want to walk with, then see if there’s a local walking group you can join. There are also many local Versus Arthritis support groups.

Move online

Some people find structured exercises helpful, such as T’ai Chi. But exercise classes and groups can be expensive.

Look online for better value alternatives. 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.

Gear up at home

Gyms and swimming pools can be helpful, but not always affordable for many people.

If memberships are out of budget, or you feel you need to take the gym off your list of bills, consider buying some simple weights that you can use at home, such as wrist or ankle weights, that can enhance exercises you do at home.

You can also use simple household items to hold while exercising, such as a small water bottle, or even a tin of beans.

Mind how you go

Arthritis pain is very real, but it’s possible to harness the power of the brain to try to control the pain. There are a variety of mindfulness apps available for your smart phone, or online cognitive behavioural therapy.

Better sleep can help with pain and help make fatigue more manageable. Brain techniques can be used to help sleep, and there are apps to help on your smart phone’s app store.

Read more about managing your pain.

Check the claims

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.

Stay in touch

Many people with arthritis face isolation, which can make you feel worse. We offer support services across the UK.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you need to discuss debt, budgets, or discuss energy bills and much more, there are lots of resources online, on social media (including our Let’s Move Facebook Group where you’ll find a community of people like you) and our helpline.

See below for resources specific to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England resources

Mental health

If you're struggling with your mental health you can speak to these organisations:

Government information

For all the latest government guidelines in England, visit:

Benefits and grant information

If you need to know more around grants and benefits that can help you pay your energy bills, visit the Citizens advice bureau.

For additional grant information visit Turn2us.

If you're older, or you’re seeking support for someone who is, Age UK offer a great deal of Cost of Living Crisis Support.

Royal British Legion are giving veterans and their families grants of up to £2,400 to help pay bills. Check if you're eligible and how to apply at moneysavingexpert.com

Help with heating bills

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

Help with water bills

Find out more about the Citizens advice ‘Watersure scheme’ which helps some 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.

Food and eating - recipes and budget ideas

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

For budget friendly recipes visit:

Debt charities

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

Scotland resources

Mental health

If you're struggling with your mental health you can speak to these organisations:

Government information

For all the latest government guidelines in Scotland, visit:

Benefits and grant information

If you need to know more around grants and benefits that can help you pay your energy bills, visit Mygov.scot.

For additional grant information visit Turn2us.

If you're older, or you’re seeking support for someone who is, Age Scotland has information on benefits and Age UK offer a great deal of Cost of Living Crisis Support.

Royal British Legion are giving veterans and their families grants of up to £2,400 to help pay bills. Check if you're eligible and how to apply at moneysavingexpert.com

Help with heating bills

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

Help with water bills

Find out more about the Citizens advice ‘Watersure scheme’ which helps some 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.

Food and eating - recipes and budget ideas

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

For budget friendly recipes visit:

Debt charities

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

Wales resources

Mental health

If you're struggling with your mental health you can speak to these organisations:

Government information

For all the latest government guidelines in Wales, visit:

Benefits and grant information

If you need to know more around grants and benefits that can help you pay your energy bills, visit the Citizens advice bureau.

For additional grant information visit Turn2us.

If you're older, or you’re seeking support for someone who is, visit:

Royal British Legion are giving veterans and their families grants of up to £2,400 to help pay bills. Check if you're eligible and how to apply at moneysavingexpert.com

Help with heating bills

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

Help with water bills

Find out more about the Citizens advice ‘Watersure scheme’ which helps some individuals on benefits who use a lot of water due to medical conditions and other criteria.

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

Warm Wales also offer free advice and support (gas grants, eco funding) to ensure people across Wales have warm and safe homes.

Food and eating - recipes and budget ideas

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

For budget friendly recipes visit:

Debt charities

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

Northern Ireland resources

Mental health

If you're struggling with your mental health you can speak to these organisations:

Government information

For all the latest government guidelines in Northern Ireland, visit:

Benefits and grant information

If you need to know more around grants and benefits that can help you pay your energy bills, visit the Citizens advice bureau.

For additional grant information visit:

If you're older, or you’re seeking support for someone who is, Age UK offer a great deal of Cost of Living Crisis Support.

Royal British Legion are giving veterans and their families grants of up to £2,400 to help pay bills. Check if you're eligible and how to apply at moneysavingexpert.com

Help with heating bills

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

Help with water bills

Find out more about the Citizens advice ‘Watersure scheme’ which helps some 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.

Food and eating - recipes and budget ideas

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

For budget friendly recipes visit:

Debt charities

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