Bones, muscles and joints

The pages in this section provide information about health conditions relating to bones, muscles and joints.

Joint pain

NHS Choices offers information about possible causes of joint pain and self-management advice, and links to more information on specific conditions.

Sports injuries

The NHS website gives an overview, and prevention and management of sports injuries. It links to information about managing specific conditions including:

General exercise and increasing physical activity

Physical activity will improve your overall health. It can improve the fitness of your heart and lungs, increase bone strength, reduce body weight and reduce the risk of conditions such as diabetes. It will also improve mobility and joint flexibility, muscle strength, and posture and balance, while decreasing pain, tiredness, muscle tension and stress.

Useful websites

  • The NHS website has information about the 12-week NHS weight loss plan and links to many resources about healthy diets and exercise.
  • Change 4 life provides links, information and ideas to help support you to increase your physical activity and improve your overall health.
  • Age UK Somerset provides information and links to exercise activities for older people in Somerset and North Somerset.
  • Travel Somerset gives information and route guides for walking and cycling in Somerset, alongside other travel information for the county.

Looking after your bones

You can learn about what you can do to reduce your risks of osteoporosis on the National Osteoporosis Society website.

You can also find out more by watching this video about osteoporosis on the Age UK website. It gives tips for managing the condition and how you can reduce your risk of breaking a bone, and keeping active and well.

Don’t forget

  • Bones get thinner with age. To keep them strong include lots of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Drink milk and eat dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables.
  • Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D, so get 15 minutes of sun a day on your skin during the summer months, without sunscreen, taking care not to burn.
  • Keep yourself as active as possible to help avoid the risk of weight problems, which can lead to more serious illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
  • Do activities to maintain your muscle and bone strength at least twice a week, like walking, gardening, or carrying shopping.
  • Some activities can help improve your balance and co-ordination, these include dancing, Tai Chi and balance exercises. Aim to do these at least twice a week if it is safe for you.
  • Try not to sit for long periods. Get up and move around to keep your circulation healthy.
  • Ask your doctor if you could benefit from any medicine to make your bones stronger.

You can find more information on these websites:

Colds and flu

In the winter, older people can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of cold weather, and colds and flu. Certain health conditions are more common when the weather’s cold and more people experience chest problems and infections, and breathing problems. Lack of natural daylight can lead to the winter blues.

There is lots of information on the NHS website, Preventing colds and flu.

Get the jab

The best time of the year to get a flu vaccination is in the autumn from September to early November. It’s free and it’s effective against the latest flu virus strains. Even if you’ve already had a flu jab in previous years, you need another one each year. The flu jab may only protect you for a year. You can find out more about the flu jab on the NHS website.

Eye care

Because our eyesight changes as we get older, most of us will need to wear glasses or contact lenses at some time in later life. You can find information to help you look after your eyes on the NHS website.

The four most common eye conditions in the UK are

There are many services in Somerset to help people recover from eye conditions and to support them afterwards.

Information on the NHS website

Information and advice about living with low vision

NHS Services
Find local opticians (also called optometrists) who provide sight tests.

The Acute Community Eyecare Service (ACES) is for people with medical eye conditions who have been newly diagnosed.

Acute Community Eyecare Service leaflet

The Low Vision Service offers special services so that people with sight loss, especially people who have been newly diagnosed, can make the most of their remaining eyesight.

A health care professional, for example your doctor or an optometrist, must refer you to this service.

National charities

Services in Somerset

Getting ready for summer

Most of us enjoy the warm, longer days of summer. And for most of us, summer doesn’t present us with any problems.

But when the weather gets very hot, for longer than just a day or so, it can cause difficulties for vulnerable groups of people, like the very young, older people and people who are seriously ill.

If there is an average temperature of 30°C during the day and 15°C at night, forecast or happening for two days and a night, it will trigger a health alert. The Met Office has a warning system that issues alerts if a heatwave is likely. You can find out more about what happens when an alert is triggered on the Somerset County Council website.

Looking after your feet

As you get older the bones and joints in your feet change their shape, feet tend to spread and loose the fatty, shock absorbent cushion underneath and the skin becomes drier and thinner. There are simple things you can do to help manage this.


Wear footwear that is correctly fitted to reflect your changing foot shape. This will help reduce foot problems and improve your balance and stability.

Avoid plastic shoes so that your feet can breathe properly to help avoid fungal infections.

Keeping your feet clean

Wash your feet daily in warm soapy water, rinse and dry well. You may need to apply a foot cream. Trim your toenails regularly, cutting straight across and making sure you do not cut too short.

Exercise your feet regularly to tone muscles, strengthen arches and improve blood circulation. If you have diabetes it is even more important to take care of your feet.

There is information and tips on keeping feet healthy as you get older on the Age.UK website.

Podiatrists and chiropodists can provide advice and treatment if you have painful feet, or any other foot-related problem. Some people may qualify for NHS podiatry treatment. To find out more speak to your doctor. You can find information about foot problems and the podiatrist and find a local podiatrist service on the NHS Choices website. There is also information about looking after your feet if you have diabetes.

Age UK Somerset also has a toenail cutting service. If you are over 60 you can be referred to this service by the NHS. Phone 0845 643 4705 for more information.

Keeping warm

Here are some tips to help you keep warm.

  • Wrap up warm. Several thin layers of clothes are better than one thick layer. Clothes made of cotton, wool and fleecy fibres are particularly good and maintain body heat.
  • As far as you can, stay inside during a cold snap if you have heart or respiratory problems
  • Make sure slippers, shoes and boots are a snug fit with non-slip soles
  • Keep active. Move around at least once an hour and don’t sit down for long periods. Even light exercise will help keep you warm
  • Eat well. Eat warming, hearty and healthy meals. Porridge makes a really filling, warming and healthy start to the day
  • Make sure you have enough of the medicine you need in case you are unable to go out
  • Keep an emergency contact number for a friend, family member or neighbour in case you need help

Here are some tips to help you keep your home warm and comfortable.

  • Your main living room should be kept between 18 to 21C (64 to 70F)
  • Use a hot water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you’re in bed
  • If you use an electric blanket, make sure it is tested every 3 years.
  • Make sure your loft and cavity walls are insulated (there should be 27cm or 10.5 inches of insulation in the loft)
  • Fit draught-proofing to seal gaps around windows and doors
  • Insulate your hot water tank and pipes
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to keep heat in the rooms
  • Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains
  • If you use solid heating fuel such as oil or LPG, make sure you have enough supply
  • Don’t use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home
  • Fit a carbon monoxide detector in your home. This will alert you if your heating system isn’t working properly.
  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm fitted

For advice about energy efficiency, including home heating and insulation, phone the Energy Advice Line on 0800 082 2234

District Councils have a lot of information to help you keep your home warmer and more energy efficient during winter.

And there are other organisations that can give you practical tips and advice.

Keeping active

Taking part in any physical activity has physical and mental health benefits. Try to build physical activity into your daily routine. It’s really important to choose an activity you enjoy, whether you’ve always been active or are just getting started. Walking, cycling, swimming, bowling, dancing, and light weight training are good choices.

Whatever the activity, each week you need to be doing at least two hours of activity that makes you feel warmer and breathe slightly faster. This can be broken down into daily amounts of 30 minutes or smaller amounts of 10 minutes.

Some people will prefer more vigorous activity, such as formal exercise or sport, and we recommend 75 minutes of this each week.

To prevent falls you need to build up muscle strength and keep your bones strong. You need specific activities like jogging or walking, where the bones are being made to work by taking your body weight, and makes the muscles in your arms and legs work harder. You can find out more about walking for health and fitness on the county council website.

A structured class or exercise regime, such as vigorous gardening or carrying shopping bags. may help, but you could improvise with small weights or objects.

If you have particular health needs talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise programme.

Find out more about physical activity for older adults, including guidelines about what activities you can do.

Lower your risk of cancer

It’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes.

You can lower your risk of developing cancer by:

  • A healthy balanced diet and keeping to a healthy weight
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Stopping smoking
  • Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage

Look out for changes to your body, such as new lumps and bumps and unexplained bleeding. Check yourself regularly. Don’t ignore a change in your body. Get it checked by your doctor.

Many cancers can be controlled and cured if they are picked up early, so take advantage of free screening.

If you are aged 60 to 74 you will automatically be invited for bowel screening every two years. People aged 75 and over, can request screening by phoning the free helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

All women aged 50 to 70 are invited to attend mammograms every three years at a hospital or mobile screening unit. After the age of 70, women can make their own appointments for screening every three years. Women aged 25-64 are also invited for cervical screening.

You can find more information about preventing cancer on the NHS website.

Skin Cancer Safety

Exposing your child to too much sun may significantly increase their risk of skin cancer later in life. Covering up, staying in the shade and using sunscreen are the best ways to protect you and your children against the sun.

And it’s not just when you’re on holiday abroad you need to think about slapping on the sunscreen, the sun can be just as strong in the UK. People often get caught out when they are not expecting it, like when out for a walk or playing in the garden.

Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health, Somerset County Council said: “Being out in the sunshine is a great way for children to be active and get the Vitamin D their bodies need. But it’s crucial they don’t get too much sun and avoid sunburn.”

Top safety tips

  • When the sun is strong encourage your child to play in the shade for example, under trees or a parasol, especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Keep babies under six months old out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
  • In strong sun cover your child up in loose, baggy cotton clothes, such as an oversized t-shirt with sleeves or get them to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck.
  • Shade and clothing are the best ways to protect skin from sunburn, but sunscreen can be a great line of defence for parts of the body that clothes can’t cover. Use at least SPF 15 and 4 star UVA rating sunscreen. Don’t forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks and the tops of their feet and reapply often throughout the day.
  • Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the “CE” mark (check the label or ask the manufacturer)
  • If your child is swimming use water resistant sunscreen and reapply regularly, especially after towel drying.

Tom Stansfeld, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, said: “Tanning is a sign your skin is trying to protect itself from sun damage – and sunburn is a clear sign that damage, which could lead to skin cancer, has already occurred.”

More information

Sexual health

Sex can be a positive, pleasurable and life enhancing part of our experience and sexual health is central to everyone’s health. Both men and women need to look after their sexual health and take time to understand the issues that surround contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Somerset-Wide Integrated Sexual Health Service has been designed as a one stop shop and offers a free and confidential service for patients who have or are concerned about sexually acquired infections and offer a full range of contraceptive methods.

The SWISH service has a dedicated website that lists useful information, and all clinic locations and times, and offers a range of appointments as well as ‘walk in, sit and wait’ clinics.

Emergency Contraception Pill

The sooner you take emergency contraception the better it will work.

There are two kinds of the emergency contraceptive pill – these are sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’.

Levonogestrel (Levonelle) can be taken up to 96 hours (4 days) after unprotected sex. This pill is the one many pharmacies can provide free. Ulipristal Acetate (ellaOne) can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. This pill is available at the SWISH Services. Both pills work by preventing or delaying ovulation.

You can get emergency contraception from:

  • Your GP
  • SWISH Services
  • Many Pharmacists
  • Minor Injury Units
  • A&E

Copper intrauterine device (IUD)

You can choose to have an IUD (coil) fitted, the IUD is a small device that is fitted in your uterus by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy but it needs to be fitted within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex or up to five days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulated).

You can have an IUD fitted for emergency contraception at most GP surgeries and it’s also available at SWISH Services.

Chlamydia Screening

Chlamydia can affect anyone, however, 1 in 12 sexually active young people between 15 and 24 will have chlamydia. The SWISH website gives more information and how to access a free screening kit.

Eddystone Trust

The Eddystone Trust is an independent organisation providing targeted prevention work and sexual health promotion, and provides information and support for anyone affected by HIV in Somerset. They are also part of the SWISH Services.

Shoulder, arm and hand problems

Upper limb problems are aches, pains, tension and disorders involving any part of the arm from fingers to shoulder, or the neck. They include problems with the soft tissues, muscles, tendons and ligaments, along with the circulatory and nerve supply to the limb.


Shoulder problems are among the most common reasons for people visiting their doctor. The shoulder is the most movable joint in the body. But, it is an unstable joint because of its range of motion. This instability increases the likelihood of joint injury. Shoulder pain may be localised or may be referred to areas around the shoulder or down the arm.

Frozen shoulder

Shoulder exercises

Elbow problems

Your elbow joint is made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments and fluid. Muscles and tendons help the elbow joint move. When any of these structures is hurt or diseased, you have elbow problems.

Many things can make your elbow hurt. A common cause is tendonitis – an inflammation or injury to the tendons that attach muscle to bone. Tendinitis of the elbow is a sports injury, often from playing tennis or golf. You may also get tendinitis from overuse of the elbow.

Other causes of elbow pain include sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, bursitis and arthritis. Treatment depends on the cause.

Tennis elbow

Golfer’s elbow

Other useful links

Elbow exercises
Elbow problems – what should I do? Information on NHS Inform

Hand and wrist problems

Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it’s not surprising that symptoms occur from everyday wear and tear or from overuse. Finger, hand, or wrist problems can also be caused by injuries or the natural process of aging.

Information on a variety of hand and wrist problems

Other useful information

  • Wrist, hand and finger exercises
  • Information on NHS Inform

Stop smoking

Quitting is the best thing you’ll ever do and there is plenty of help available. It takes most people more than one attempt, so don’t stop stopping.

Is it worth getting help to quit?

Yes. You’re up to four times more likely to succeed with help from Smokefreelife Somerset, compared to quitting without professional support or buying over the counter medication.

Where can you get help in Somerset?

Smokefreelife Somerset is the free stop smoking service provider for Somerset, offering a range of support including groups, one-to-one, web and telephone support. Phone 01823 356222 to discuss support to suit your lifestyle. Stop smoking medications are included in this service, which for most people will be free of charge.

I don’t want to use groups or clinics, what are my options?

That’s not a problem. Smokefreelife Somerset has web and telephone support available to you free of charge. Remember, with professional support you are much more likely to quit successfully. But if you prefer to try on your own, make full use of the online advice from NHS Smokefree and consider using free tools such as text messaging and a smartphone app.

If you prefer to try a book, The Smokefree Formula by Robert West is highly recommended. It is up to date and fully informed by the evidence of what works, but written in a very engaging style, so it’s easy to read.

Should I use e-cigs (electronic cigarettes) to quit?

We can’t recommend or supply e-cigs as an alternative to licensed medicines. But if you want to try quitting with one, and many people do try this way, then you are welcome to use professional support from Smokefreelife Somerset. This will greatly increase your chance of quitting smoking successfully.

Here are some facts about e-cigs:

  • They can provide some of the nicotine that would have otherwise been obtained from smoking regular cigarettes
  • They are not a magic cure, but some people find them helpful for quitting, cutting down their nicotine intake and managing temporary abstinence
  • There is a wide range of electronic cigarettes available and you may need to try various brands, flavours and nicotine dosages before you find a brand that you like
  • Their use is not exactly like smoking and users may need to experiment and learn to use them effectively (for example, longer ‘drags’ are required and a number of short puffs may be needed initially to activate the ‘vapouriser’ and improve nicotine delivery)
  • Although some health risks from electronic cigarette use may yet emerge, these are likely to be, at worst, only a small fraction of the risks of smoking. This is because electronic cigarettes do not contain combustion chemicals which cause lung and heart disease and cancer

What if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy?

Stopping smoking is the most important thing you can do for your baby. Both you and your baby will feel the benefits straight way. Specialist advice and support through our M2Bs smoking in pregnancy service is available from your midwife and Smokefreelife Somerset.

I smoke to help me deal with stress and anxiety. Will quitting make this worse?

A common misconception is that smoking helps to reduce stress, but smoking actually increases the physical stress on the body and is far more dangerous than any stress that comes from quitting. It is the cravings from cigarettes that make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you smoke the cigarette you feel calmer. Stopping smoking can actually reduce your stress levels and you’ll feel much better and healthier once you quit. You might be feeling stressed from time to time and you might feel that smoking helps you cope, but non-smokers usually have lower stress levels than smokers.

Advice and guidance

The NHS Stop Smoking site offers advice and support to quit smoking.

Pain management

Most people want to understand more about their pain, why it persists, why it sometimes doesn’t respond to some medical treatments.

Local services

Somerset Community Pain Management Service – Our local pain management website has information including a book called ‘Supporting you with your pain management’, and guidance on using medication.

How to manage your pain – Stress and anxiety. Useful links and a video called: ‘The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Stress’.

Understanding pain videos

General information

The NHS website – self-help information and links for patients with persistent pain.

The Pain Toolkit – a simple information booklet that could provide you with some handy tips and skills to support you along the way to managing your pain.

Sheffield Persistent Pain Although this site is written for patients with persistent pain who live in Sheffield, it has great information and links for people who want to know more about living with long-term pain.

Self-management support courses

Self management UK – Provide a persistent pain programme, a free self-management course for people who live with day-to-day persistent pain. The course is run in the local area in a variety of different locations.

Be Mindful is a UK website containing all you need to know about mindfulness, which helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.

Support groups and pain organisations

Action on Pain – A charity offering support and advice for patients living with persistent pain.

Pain Concern is a charity for people living with persistent pain, and those who care for and about them. They run a pain helpline (0300 123 0789) and have a range of information and self-management advice on managing pain.


There are many reasons why people can become lonely as they get older. But there are lots of ways this can be avoided.

Many people benefit from taking up new activities. This might be by joining a community group, volunteering, or learning computer skills.

Most people believe that being able to talk and laugh with someone is the most important thing of all. Research shows that being lonely is bad for our mental and physical health.

Why not meet new friends? Here are a few suggestions.

Age UK Together Befriending Service

Phone 0800 169 2081 and ask for information about the service. Talk to Sue Creighton for Somerset. Phone 01823 345610

Campaign to end loneliness and petition people can sign and donate.

Contact the Elderly
Sign up for a Sunday afternoon tea group. Tea Parties with Friends, once a month. Phone 0800 716 543 or

University of the Third Age (U3A) – not a university but a very popular and economical way to join in with interest groups run by expert volunteers, anything from bridge, walking, bowls, day trips out on a wide range of themes – whatever takes your fancy. Phone 0208 466 6139

Help an older person stay well this winter. Give time to help a person who may be isolated. When winter sets in clear paths or just offer to get shopping. Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours who may need help when the colder weather really sets in.

Village Agents -hosted by Community Council for Somerset

Somerset Community Foundation – surviving winter campaign

What can you do?

Smile, even if it feels hard
Grab every chance to smile or begin a conversation.

Invite friends for tea
If you’re feeling down and alone, it’s tempting to think that no one wants to visit you. But often, friends, family and neighbours will appreciate receiving an invitation to come and spend some time with you.

Keep in touch by phone
Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them.

Learn to love computers
If your friends and family live far away, a good way to keep in touch, especially with grandchildren, is by using a computer. You can share emails and photos, have free video chats using online services and make new online ‘friends’ or reconnect with old friends using social media.

Get involved in local community activities
There are a huge number of social groups in Somerset from walking groups, singing groups, book clubs, bridge, bingo, quiz nights and faith groups.

Fill your diary
It can help you feel less lonely if you plan the week ahead and put things in your diary to look forward to each day. This could be something as simple as a walk in the park, going to a local coffee shop, library, cinema or museum.

Get out and about
Don’t wait for people to come and see you, travel to visit them.

Help other people
Use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over a lifetime to give something back to your community. You’ll get lots back in return, such as new skills and confidence and, hopefully, new friends.

You can find more information about reducing the feelings of loneliness on the NHS Choices website.

For advice about local befriending options contact the Age UK Somerset Befriending Service or phone 0845 643 4703 and ask for details of the Together Service.

Another option is to join a local Somerset Active Living group. There are over 120 across Somerset. You can find out more on the Somerset Active Living website or phone Somerset You can Do on 01278 664188.

Speak to your doctor if you feel unhappy or unable to cope. Anyone can develop depression at some time in their life and getting help early is very important.

Or you may like to phone Somerset Direct on 0300 123 2224 for information about your entitlements to support.

Somerset libraries offer many opportunities for people to get out, join a group and meet new friends. Here are a few examples of groups taking place in libraries around Somerset. Please search this site for libraries or ask at your local library for activities near to you.

  • ‘Feel Better with a Book’ groups – reading groups for people with mental health difficulties
  • Knit and Natter groups – friendly social gatherings to talk and knit together
  • RVS Home Library Service – volunteers deliver books, DVDs and talking books to people who cannot easily visit the library
  • UK Online Sessions – teaching people computer basics
  • Library Friends Groups – many libraries have a friends groups to support the library, offering an opportunity for people to get active in their community

Find more information using these links.