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7 Commonly Held Misconceptions About Arthritis

by Staci Marks on May 18, 2012

With nearly 52 million Americans diagnosed with arthritis and another 27 million suffering from osteoarthritis according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), it’s important to separate the facts from fiction when it comes to joint pain. One of the most common misconceptions about arthritis is that it is a minor condition resulting in only aches and pains. These long-held myths only hinder progress and treatment, since arthritis sufferers may not be taking the right steps to treat the disease. Here are some debunked common myths surrounding arthritis everyone should be aware of.

  1. Taking supplements will rebuild joints

    Consuming glucosamine supplements and food products containing gelatin to rebuild damaged joints is an age-old misconception. Although both supplements contain natural compounds found in your joints and cartilage, there is no scientific evidence that supplements will restore joints. Sometimes, these pills or collagen infused products will offer temporary pain relief and inflammation suppression. Even though there is no concrete evidence proving or disproving this theory, taking supplements (in moderation) to reduce the side effects of arthritis is not harmful, so it may be a good option to explore.

  2. There is only one type of arthritis

    “Arthritis is arthritis” is a commonly held belief, just like some people may believe there is only one type of cancer. There are so many types of arthritis — rheumatoid arthritis, gout, crystals, fibromyalgia, and as many as 100 other kinds of the ailment. The most common type of arthritis is osteoporosis, which causes bone pain or tenderness over time. Since the early stages of the ailment almost have no detectable symptoms, many people are unaware that they are developing the condition. Also, don’t just assume that any joint pain is arthritis —  it could be a joint strain, bursitis, or a general sprain.

  3. Arthritis is untreatable

    There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments to slow the progression and relieve the pain of arthritis. Prevention is an important component — working out regularly, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and minimizing injuries to your joints are all preventative measures you can take. For arthritis sufferers, taking arthritis medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), COX-2 inhibitors, corticosteroids, and other pain relief medication can ease tension and inflammation, which is important in preventing more joint damage. People who wait too long to see the doctor for any joint pain often experience drastic erosions in joints (joints don’t grow back), so early treatment is also very important. While taking dozens of supplements may help, it also takes a toll on your liver and body. Some patients do extremely well with physical therapy, while others may need surgery. Whatever your condition is, there are always steps you can take to manage arthritis better.

  4. Exercise worsens arthritis

    A common myth surrounding arthritis is that exercising would inflict more damage to joints and cause more pain. Many arthritis sufferers believe they need to rest their joints, or simply don’t exercise due to stiffness and pain. However, much research has been done regarding the beneficial effects of exercise and treating arthritis. Range-of-motion exercises (movement beyond their normal range of movement), strengthening exercises, aerobic activities, and other gentle forms of yoga and tai chi can have many positive effects. Exercise enables muscle growth and strengthening, gives you more energy, helps control weight, and makes it easier to get restful sleep, all of which are beneficial to arthritis sufferers. The American College of Rheumatology has also encouraged people to incorporate brisk walks or regular water aerobic activity into their daily routine.

  5. Arthritis is a result of long-term knuckle cracking

    Many people crack their knuckles because it helps their joints feel less stiff, or to ease some tension between their joints. Studies have not found any correlation between knuckle cracking and arthritis, although there have been some reports of acute minor injuries in children when too much force was used to crack the knuckle. Other than extreme cases, popping knuckles is just a vacuum phenomenon, according to Doctor Mark Macquillan from the University of Michigan, Department of Internal Medicine. Bits of excess nitrogen gas dissolved in your blood literally make a popping noise, which has no correlation to developing arthritis.

  6. Arthritis only affects the elderly

    It can happen to anyone. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention show that as much as two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65. Junior rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form of childhood arthritis, affects youth populations as young as one to six years old, while data from a 2004 National Health Interview Survey found that an average of 80,100 cases of childhood arthritis affect youth 16 years and younger every year.

  7. Diet has no influence on arthritis

    Diet certainly is a factor in preventing arthritis, although the correlation is complex. Maintaining a healthy weight places less pressure on your hips and knees, but nutritious diets may just help your health in general, with no direct correlation to arthritis prevention. A study published by the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Today, found that yellow and purple potatoes may reduce inflammation in men, and those who consumed high amounts of lutein (found in tomatoes) were 70% less likely to develop osteoarthritis. Gout arthritis is caused by an excess of uric acid, so people who consume large amounts of organ meat, sardines, and drink beer excessively have a higher chance of developing gout. Food allergies can also sometimes aggravate joints, but do not cause arthritis.

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  1. Osteoporosis: Prevention and Treatment
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