View All Articles

5 Common Myths About Arthritis

Many people think arthritis is something that only happens to old people. Or that if you have arthritis, your days of exercising are over.

There is a lot of misinformation about this condition that affects about one in five U.S. adults, or more than 50 million people. It is the leading cause of disability in this country, with half of those with arthritis falling between the ages of 18 and 64.

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness (it usually gets worse as you age) found in one or more of your joints. The most common type is osteoarthritis, which causes degradation of the protective cartilage covering the ends of your bones. Another common type is rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which your immune system mistakenly targets your joints.

Joint symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness or reduced range of motion
  • Swelling
  • Redness or discoloration
  • Tenderness
  • Heat or warmth

Despite being such a common condition, it is often misunderstood. Let’s look at some of the more common myths and misconceptions.

Arthritis Only Affects Old People

It’s certainly true that your risk for arthritis increases as you get older. Nearly half of adults over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. But arthritis can affect you at any age. For example, an injury to a joint can lead to post-traumatic arthritis. The condition, which represents about 12 percent of osteoarthritis cases, develops much faster than arthritis related to wear-and-tear. People in jobs (construction, manufacturing and office work, among others) that require repetitive motions are also at greater risk for developing arthritis earlier.

If You Have Arthritis, You Can’t Exercise

This misconception could actually lead you to avoid a beneficial activity. The right exercises can help you maintain strength and range of motion in your joints. You should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Look for low-impact exercises and activities that won’t put undue stress on your joints. Consider bicycling, swimming, brisk walks or yoga.

If you are just getting started after a long layoff, expect some pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints during the first month or so. That discomfort should fade as your body grows used to the activities.

If Your Joint Hurts, You Must Have Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain. But it isn’t the only cause. Tendon injuries are the second most common cause of joint pain. These are often related to overuse, where a repetitive motion damages or inflames the tendons that attach your muscles to your bones. You may feel the pain in your joint, but it’s actually muscle related. Among the most common of these is tennis elbow, which is caused by swelling or damage to the tendons that help you move your wrist backward and away from your palm.

Other possibilities include ligament injuries and various disorders, such as gout, lupus and fibromyalgia.

There’s Nothing You Can Do To Avoid Arthritis

It’s true that there is no surefire way to keep yourself free of arthritis, a condition that can have many causes. Some people, for example, have genetic risk factors. But if your joints are healthy now, you can reduce your risk for certain types of arthritis.

  • Keep your weight down: Among the benefits is putting less strain on the cartilage in your knees.
  • Diet: Eating anti-inflammatory foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein) can reduce your risk for inflammation and help with your weight.
  • Limit repetitive tasks: Even if you can’t avoid certain tasks, be sure to give yourself breaks to let your joints rest. And if you play tennis, golf or other sports with repetitive motions, be sure to use the right equipment and use stretches and exercises to reduce injury risk.
  • Choose low impact sports: Activities like running, basketball and soccer can cause wear and tear on your joints. Instead, consider strength training, brisk walks, bicycling and swimming.

Arthritis Can’t Be Cured, So Why See a Doctor?

There are several reasons to seek help if you think you may have arthritis. As mentioned earlier, it may not even be arthritis. But if it is, there could be more at risk than pain in your joints. Some types of arthritis can cause damage to your heart or other organs. Also, the earlier your condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin medications or lifestyle modifications that can have a substantial impact on your quality of life.

Choose to Stay in Touch

Sign up to receive the latest health news and trends, wellness & prevention tips, and much more from Orlando Health.

Sign Up

Related Articles