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Arthritis, a generic term used to describe joint pain or disease, is a very common disease but is not well understood by the general population. There are actually over 100 types of arthritis and conditions related to arthritis, and more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from the effects of this disease.
As there are many misconceptions about arthritis, here are seven myths about the disease and the truths behind them.
Fact: There are several types of arthritis that can affect both children and young adults, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA—also known as childhood arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis). Depending on your genetics and your lifestyle, you may be at risk of arthritis at any point in your life.
Fact: Although your genes play a major role in whether or not you develop arthritis, this does not mean that the onset of the disease is guaranteed as you age. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “many types of arthritis are thought to result from a combination of genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger, such as a virus or toxin.” Lifestyle habits such as not smoking, reducing stress, exercising regularly and eating healthy can reduce your risk of developing the disease.
Fact: Both of your parents having arthritis does not guarantee that you will develop the disease; people who are genetically predisposed to arthritis do not always develop it later in life. Although it is unclear why some people have arthritis and some do not, living a healthy lifestyle will help you prevent the development of arthritis as you age.
Fact: Arthritis is a progressive disease, but there are many things you and your healthcare provider can do to manage your symptoms and maintain your joint health, especially in the early stages. Preventive measures like using assistive devices to take stress off of the suffering joints and avoiding injury and excessive repetitive movements can extend the life of your joints. Additionally, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines and participating in hot and cold therapies can help prolong the health of your joints.
Fact: Studies show that if you have arthritis, inactivity tends to make the symptoms worse and/or more painful than they already are. Participating in joint-friendly, low-impact physical activity can improve your arthritis pain, function, mood and quality of life. Ideas for joint-friendly activities include but are not limited to swimming, cycling, yoga, water aerobics and dancing.
Fact: The “pop” of a cracked knuckle is caused by bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid (the lubricant in your joints). Although the act of popping your knuckles has been associated with other health risks (like losing grip strength in your hands), it is not scientifically associated with arthritis.
Fact: Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting 54.4 million adults (about one in every four U.S. adults—and their families). The economic burden of arthritis is also large, with estimated costs of over $300 billion a year. While steps are being taken towards treatment and removal of the disease, no cure is currently available. Education on the importance of a healthy lifestyle appears to be the best course of preventive action for the disease.
If you are your loved one are suffering from the effects of arthritis, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options available.
“Myth Buster: The Truth About Arthritis Causes and Treatments.” University of Rochester Medical Center.
“About Arthritis: What is Arthritis?” Arthritis Foundation.
“How to Prevent Arthritis.” Arthritis Foundation.
“Arthritis Basics: FAQ.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Does Knuckle Cracking cause Arthritis?” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
“The Impact of Osteoarthritis in the United States.” Murphy, Louise, and Charles G. Helmick. AJN, American Journal of Nursing, vol. 112, 2012, doi:10.1097/01.naj.0000412646.80054.21.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.