7 myths about arthritis, debunked
There are several kinds of arthritis, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms or finds relief from the same treatments.
And to confuse matters further, there is a host of misconceptions and longstanding myths about arthritis.
Speaking to other arthritis sufferers on a forum or reading about different treatments can help you discover new ways to manage your arthritis, but always check with your doctor before trying anything new – and make sure what you’re reading is backed by medical science.
Myth #1: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis
Whether out of nervousness or habit, lots of people just can’t stop cracking their knuckles.
You may have been warned that it could cause arthritis, but the noise you hear when you pull on your knuckles is from excess nitrogen gas popping. There seems to be no link between the cracking of knuckles and an increased risk of developing arthritis.
Still, there is a link between cracking your knuckles and injuring your ligaments surrounding your joints – so the jury’s still out.
Myth #2: Arthritis happens only to old people
Arthritis can also affect children – in the United States, close to 300,000 children younger than 18 years have arthritis or similar conditions.
In fact, around two-thirds of people suffering from arthritis are younger than 65.
While there are some forms of arthritis that tend to occur later in life, like osteoarthritis, other types can affect people at any age.
This sort of stigma can make it hard for younger arthritis sufferers to make their colleagues, friends or family understand what they’re going through – and it can even put them off asking for help.
Myth #3: All joint pain must be arthritis
An aching joint doesn’t necessarily mean you have arthritis. You could have tendonitis, or any other soft tissue-related injury.
If you’re concerned, reach out to a professional and get properly diagnosed. Only a visit to the doctor will tell you for sure.
Myth #4: Exercising makes arthritis worse
When you’re feeling some pain, it may seem like a good idea to get some bed rest and binge-watch movies, but one of the main causes of arthritis is a lack of physical activity.
Regular exercise might actually provide relief for your arthritis symptoms and help you maintain a full range of motion in your joints. Swimming, walking in the water and moderate weightlifting are all exercises that can build up your strength while being gentle on your joints.
But never push through severe rheumatoid arthritis pain during a flare-up: it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop. Always ask your doctor what type of exercise is best suited to your particular condition.
Myth #5: Eating oily fish can cure my arthritis
Oily fish may cut your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, but there’s no cure.
That said, a healthy diet in general could help you maintain an ideal weight, which places less strain on your joints. And some studies suggest that eating too much sugar could cause inflammation in your body, so you may want to try reducing your sugar intake overall.
Myth #6: It’s all genetic
It’s true that your genes can affect your risk of developing osteoarthritis, but your lifestyle has a huge affect on the health of your joints too. Your weight, age, pre-existing joint injuries and the amount of strain you place on your joints every day are all factors.
Myth #7: There’s nothing you can do about arthritis
While there’s no magic cure, there are things you can do to minimize your pain, such as:
- Getting hot (or cold): some people find that heat treatments (like applying a heat pad or soaking in a warm bath) soothes stiff joints. But for more acute pain, a cold pack could reduce the inflammation in your joints and ease your pain.
- Speaking to your doctor about medication to help you cope with the pain and reduce inflammation
- Maintaining a healthy weight so you’re not overly taxing your joints
- Staying active: the right exercise can improve your range of motion and could even delay the need for surgery if your have mild to moderate hip osteoarthritis (according to a 2015 study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases).
- Opting for surgery: there are a range of surgeries, from fixing tears in soft tissue to replacing a joint or supporting your cartilage, that can give you a better quality of life if lifestyle changes and medication aren’t doing enough on their own.
- Planning ahead to prepare for a flare-up in your symptoms.
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