When it comes to understanding arthritis and formulating a treatment plan to prevent pain and disability, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Many myths surrounding arthritis are out there and can lead to misinformation and poor choices that exacerbate arthritis symptoms. Don’t miss these top 8 arthritis myths – debunked!
Cracking Knuckles Causes Arthritis
FALSE. While your old school teacher might have got on you for cracking your knuckles in class, her claims that they would lead to arthritis have been disproven in multiple studies. A 2011 retrospective study, for example, examined older adults (50 to 89 years old) with and without osteoarthritis in their hands. It took into account their personal details, history, and frequency of knuckle cracking behavior and found no link between the habit and rates of the joint disease.
Only the Elderly Develop Arthritis
FALSE. Arthritis, unfortunately, afflicts people old and young, including children. In the U.S. alone, 53 million adults live with the condition as do 300,000 children according to the Arthritis Foundation. Some types of arthritis can worsen with age, however, like degenerative osteoarthritis. When the cartilage between joints that acts like a cushion starts to degrade and wear away over time, it can lead to painful rubbing of bones together, as well as swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion.
Arthritis is Worse in Cold and Damp Weather
MAYBE. Scores of anecdotal evidence point to a worsening of arthritis pain with the cold or damp weather though research to back that up is scarce and often contradictory. Harvard Medical School, however, shares that new studies are shedding some light on a possible theory that a change in barometric pressure may exacerbate arthritis pain and joint stiffness. Higher humidity and rising barometric pressure were reported in a couple studies to worsen arthritic pain and stiffness, however, there is not enough conclusive evidence to currently be actionable.
There is Only One Type of Arthritis
FALSE. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation shares that there are over 100 types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. Arthritis is more of catch-all term for multiple conditions involving joint pain or joint disease, with hallmark symptoms of pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range of motion. Not all joint pain is arthritis, however. Conditions including Lyme disease and bursitis also have pain profiles involving joint inflammation.
Exercise Make Arthritis Pain Worse
FALSE. While an appropriate mix of activity and rest is a must for managing arthritis pain, limiting exercise can actually have a negative effect on joint health and patient outcome. Low-impact activities that are easy on the joints can also be effective at improving blood circulation, boosting flexibility and range of motion, and managing a healthy weight; these include cycling, swimming, dancing, hiking, yoga, and tai chi. The American College of Rheumatology reveals that long-term studies have shown people with inflammatory arthritis (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis) can benefit from weight-bearing, moderate intensity exercises while aerobic and strengthening exercises can aid osteoarthritis sufferers.
Heat Therapy is Better Than Cold Therapy for Arthritis Pain
FALSE. Applications of both heat and ice can benefit arthritis sufferers. Cold therapy with an ice pack or cold compress can help to relieve swelling around joints as well as numb nerve endings to diminish pain signals. Heat, on the other hand, can boost blood flow and relax the connective tissues (tendons, muscles, etc.) around the joint to improve range of motion. Additional natural pain aids may include topical ointments, finger splints, and compression gloves. Compression gloves for arthritis help to reduce pain and swelling and increase hand mobility.
Nutrition Won’t Affect Arthritis
FALSE. While consumption of certain foods can’t necessarily prevent the development of arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight and eating anti-inflammatory foods may help those who already have arthritis. Keeping off the excess pounds can do wonders for relieving the stress and pressures on vulnerable joints like the knees and ankles. And foods like turmeric, ginger, fatty fish, and flaxseed oil contain biochemical agents that act like natural anti-inflammatories to tackle arthritic joint inflammation.
Arthritis Affects Your Bones
FALSE. A common mix-up, arthritis and osteoporosis are very different conditions; the former involves joint inflammation and stiffness while the latter refers to loss of bone density. Rates of osteoporosis are high for older adults, especially post-menopausal women, and such bone loss can increase the risk for fracture should you experience an injury or fall. There is a link, however, in the types of exercises that may benefit both. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, and yoga, can improve both bone density as well as joint stiffness and range of motion.
When it comes to managing arthritis symptoms, talk with your doctor about any questions or myths you need cleared up. With early action and a custom treatment plan, you can potentially ward off pain and joint degeneration to maintain the quality of life you want for years to come.