Did you know that more than 54 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis? By 2040, this number is expected to grow to an estimated 78 million.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is the tenderness or inflammation of one or more of your joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, all of which have different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA).
Typically, arthritis symptoms develop over time; however, they may also appear suddenly. Arthritis is commonly seen in seniors aged 65 and above, but it can also affect children, teens, and young adults. Also, it is more common in women and in overweight individuals.
Individuals living with arthritis experience chronic pain and disability. Common symptoms of arthritis –which can result in poor quality of life and significant disability – include chronic joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe, and some symptoms get worse over time.
Common Arthritis Myths and Misconceptions
Today, many myths and misconceptions about arthritis continue to spread. Unfortunately, these misconceptions promote misunderstanding. Individuals with arthritis need valid information and facts, not myths and misconceptions.
In this article, we debunk 7 common myths surrounding arthritis.
Myth #1: Arthritis is a single disease.
Fact: Arthritis is not a single disease; rather, it is a term used to describe over 100 different conditions that affect the joints, the tissues surrounding the joint, and other connective tissues. The most common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, psoriatic arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and osteoporosis. All of them cause pain and disability in different ways.
Myth #2: Arthritis only affects the elderly.
Fact: One of the biggest myths surrounding arthritis is that it only affects the elderly. The fact is, arthritis can affect anyone at any age – this includes children, teens, and young adults. Furthermore, arthritis is not gender-specific. While there are more than 100 types of arthritis, certain conditions are more prevalent in specific groups.
For instance, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are more common in women; while ankylosing spondylitis and gout appear more often in men. Also, diseases such as juvenile psoriatic arthritis and systemic arthritis affect children; on the other hand, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, are more common among the elderly.
Myth #3: Arthritis is a normal part of aging.
Fact: Arthritis may be common among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging. In fact, some types of arthritis are caused by other factors such as joint trauma and obesity, while some are even considered autoimmune disorders – all of which have nothing to do with aging. Furthermore, arthritis doesn’t just affect older people – it affects children, teens, and young adults too. Sadly, by dismissing arthritis as a normal part of aging, many individuals do not access the treatment they need to help them manage their condition.
Myth #4: You can no longer exercise if you have arthritis.
Fact: When dealing with arthritis pain, the last thing that most people want to do is exercise. This leads to the misconception that you can no longer exercise if you have arthritis. This is simply not true. In fact, research shows that exercise is highly important for people with arthritis!
Exercising can boost your strength and flexibility, improve your balance, strengthen the muscle around your joints, reduce joint pain, and help control your weight. You don’t have to run marathons or scale up a mountain to help reduce arthritis symptoms. Even simple, moderate exercises like walking, jogging, or gardening, can help ease your pain and enhance your quality of life. So, if you think that exercising will aggravate your joint pain – think again. Physical inactivity can actually make your joints even more stiff and painful, so make sure to get moving!
Note: Before starting any exercise program, make sure to talk to your healthcare team first. The types of exercises that you can do may depend on the type of arthritis you have and which joints are involved. Your physical therapist or doctor can work with you to find an exercise program that gives you the most benefit, with the least effect on your joint pain.
Myth #5: People with arthritis only experience minor aches and pains.
Fact: People with arthritis experience so much more than just ‘minor aches and pains. In fact, arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide! Some people are in constant pain due to their arthritis. Furthermore, some forms of arthritis cause severe pain, and may even cause joint damage, joint deformity, and functional limitations.
Myth #6: Arthritis can be cured.
Fact: Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for arthritis yet. However, arthritis treatments have greatly improved throughout the years. Today, some of the treatments for arthritis include medications (i.e. analgesics, NSAIDs, capsaicin creams, and immunosuppressants), surgery, and physical therapy. Also, some people with arthritis use mobility assistance devices, such as walkers and canes, to help reduce the pressure off of sore joints.
Myth #7: Arthritis is a hopeless disease – once you’re diagnosed, there is nothing you can do.
Fact: There are so many things that a person with arthritis can do – and an optimal quality of life is still possible. While there isn’t a cure for arthritis yet, there are some effective medications and therapies that can help alleviate arthritis symptoms. Moreover, good self-care and lifestyle modifications can help a lot. Healthy habits include exercising, eating healthy and well-balanced meals, getting enough sleep, losing weight, and balancing activity with rest.
When Should I See A Doctor?
It is normal to experience muscle and joint aches and pains from time to time. This is particularly true if you regularly take part in strenuous physical activities.
So, how can you differentiate between normal aches and pains and the early signs of arthritis? And, how do you know when you should consult a doctor about your symptoms?
If you are experiencing stiffness, swelling, or pain that you can’t explain or won’t go away in a few days, you should consult your doctor immediately. Remember, early detection is the key to good arthritis management.
Furthermore, if you experience any of these other factors, you should consider seeing your doctor:
- If a joint becomes swollen or if you are experiencing pain that isn’t linked to an injury – see your doctor. This is particularly important if the joint is also red and warm, and if you are also experiencing a fever.
- If you are unable to perform everyday tasks due to muscle or joint pain.
- If you are experiencing pain that refuses to go away, even after applying some heat and taking some painkillers. If pain persists after a couple of weeks or so, consult your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Do not simply believe everything that you hear about arthritis – make sure to do your research and find out whether the information that you have is true or not. Misconceptions promote misunderstanding, which may cause some people to not access the treatment they need to help manage their condition.
Hopefully, this article was able to dispel some misconceptions that you may have had about arthritis.