Arthritis myths debunked

Arthritis is a major cause of disability and chronic pain, and millions of dollars are spent on treatment every year. And because there isn’t much available in the way of a cure for the sometimes excruciating discomfort associated with this chronic condition, it’s enveloped in misconception, myth and, sometimes, ineffective yet costly remedies.

The following facts will help set the record straight and debunk some of the existing misconceptions about this age-old condition:

Myth #1: Joint pain is always an indication of arthritis
This simply isn’t true. Other conditions such as tendonitis, gout, bursitis, strains, sprains and other soft-tissue injuries may also cause joint pain. If you’re in the dark about what’s causing your joint pain, you should consult a rheumatologist for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Myth #2: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis
The cracking of knuckles is a common practice that seems to relieve joint stiffness. Some believe it’s a sign of arthritis or that it may cause the condition, but scientists haven’t found a link between the two. A Johns Hopkins Arthritis Centre study did, however, find a link between knuckle cracking and injury to the ligaments surrounding the joints. In some study participants it even resulted in dislocation of the tendons. Another study found that people who crack their knuckles may not grip items as strongly as people who don't. So, it’s best to avoid it if you can.

Myth #3: There’s only one form of arthritis
This is the same as the assumption that there’s only one type of cancer. The truth is that there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet. The most common forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), gout, ankylosing spondylitis and scleroderma.

Myth #4: Arthritis is synonymous with the usual aches and pains people develop as they grow older
Although this chronic condition is more common in older people, it can start at any age, including in childhood. Similarly, not all elderly people will develop arthritis. The best way to find out if you have one of the many forms of arthritis is to schedule a medical examination.

Myth #5: Having arthritis is a hopeless situation
While treatments are limited, there’s a lot you can do to manage the pain and discomfort of arthritis. For starters, you can lose any excess weight to help lessen the pressure on your joints. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, experimenting with heat/cold compresses, protecting your joints and continually checking in with your doctor are all important steps. Your doctor is in the best position to discuss pain-relief treatment and/or surgery suited to your specific situation.

REMEMBER: Arthritis doesn’t have to signify the end of an active, productive life. In treating the condition, it’s important to collaborate with your healthcare team to find out what works best for you.

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