When it comes to the topic of arthritis, many myths and misconceptions permeate the conversation. Making assumptions about the disease to begin with can affect when patients seek medical help and how they strategize treatment. Don’t miss these 8 arthritis myths – debunked!
Myth: Only older adults develop arthritis
False: While many seniors do develop arthritis and the risk for arthritis does increase with age, the painful and potentially debilitating condition affects people of all ages, even children. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability, affecting roughly 1 in 5 adults over the age of 18 and 1 in 250 children.
Myth: There’s only one kind of arthritis
False: Did you know that gout is considered a form of arthritis? In fact, it’s one of over a hundred types of the disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, virus-induced arthritis, fibromyalgia, and psoriatic arthritis (to name a few). Joint inflammation and immobility accompanies other diseases as well, like lupus, and results in significant functional limitations.
Myth: My diet doesn’t affect my arthritis
False: Like with most diseases and conditions, managing a healthy weight is a comprehensive balance of healthy eating and regular exercise. Being overweight and obese not only increases risk for developing heart disease and diabetes, but it places added internal stressors on vulnerable weight-bearing joints, especially the knees and feet. This undue pressure exacerbates arthritic inflammation, pain, and weakness, making it harder to stay active and mobile.
Myth: Exercise makes arthritis pain worse
False: In fact, exercise is a proven pain-reliever when it comes to managing arthritis symptoms. Gentler, low-impact activities like walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, and rowing are all easier on the joints (compared to high impact sports like basketball, soccer, etc), and the movement and increased heart rate helps loosen joint tissues and strengthen muscles. Routine physical fitness also hones coordination and balance skills which reinforces arthritis sufferers’ functional abilities to complete day to day tasks successfully.
Myth: Cracking knuckles causes arthritis
False: While the sound of someone cracking their knuckles might put you on edge, the concern over it causing arthritis turns out to be unfounded. A 2015 report showed that the popping sound of knuckles cracking is actually not movement of synovial joint fluid but rather the sound of a sudden cavity of air in the joint being created, like a vacuum. Surveys of geriatric patients also revealed no correlation between lifelong knuckle cracking and arthritis.
Myth: Supplements can cure arthritis
False: Does your neighbor think her ginger and turmeric tea will help all your joint pain go away? Are you stocking up on glucosamine supplements because you heard it can restore your joints to the way they once were? While some more anecdotal evidence has shown certain spices and supplements to aid arthritis inflammation and pain, there is no evidence that shows any “cure” for arthritis can be linked to either.
Myth: Wearing braces doesn’t help
False: Wraps, kinesio tape, and orthotics like an arthritis thumb brace actually do a good job of providing pain relief by stabilizing inflamed joints and limiting motions that may worsen the pain. Braces that broaden the scope of physical activity an arthritis sufferer can take part in are important players in maintaining a healthy weight and positive outlook.
Myth: Women develop arthritis just as much as men
False: Women actually develop arthritis more than men – about 1 in 4 women develop arthritis compared to 1 in 5 men, though different types of arthritis present more in one sex versus the other. For example, men are more likely to develop gouty arthritis while women have significantly higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis. Science is not clear why more women have arthritis, however, some schools of thought posit that female hormone and immune systems may have something to do with it.