You may know more people with arthritis than you think. According to the Arthritis Foundation, over 50 million people over 18 in the U.S. currently live with doctor-diagnosed arthritis – and there are over 100 diseases and medical conditions which cause arthritis. If you are experiencing chronic joint pain, don’t make assumptions about diagnosing and self-treating. Learn the truth about common arthritis myths and talk to a healthcare provider about your options and a customized treatment plan.
Arthritis Affects Bones
FALSE. While arthritis and osteoporosis are both relatively common, and sometimes referred to interchangeably as you age, they are completely different diseases. Osteoporosis is specifically a condition where bones become less dense and more susceptible to fracture, while arthritis is the general inflammation of one or more joints. Joints are the connective tissues between bones. One common type of arthritis called osteoarthritis (which sounds like osteoporosis) specifically refers to a painful, degenerative swelling of joints where two bones meet, like the hips, knees, small joints of the hand, neck, and back.
Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
FALSE. Habitual knuckle cracking was believed anecdotally for some time to lead to arthritis of the hand, but multiple studies and surveys have shown that simply is not true. A 2011 study looking retrospectively at two groups of older adults, one of whom cracked their knuckles regularly and the other who didn’t reveal that rates of osteoarthritis in the hand were not linked to knuckle cracking. Real-time magnetic resonance images (MRI) taken of the hand while knuckles were cracked revealed in this 2015 report as well that the popping sound associated with knuckle cracking was in fact not lubricating fluid and gases escaping a joint, but rather a rapid vacuum being created on a teeny tiny scale to form a cavity of air near the joint.
Diet Doesn’t Affect Arthritis.
FALSE. There definitely are some anti-inflammatory foods which can aid the painful swelling associated with arthritis. Turmeric, part of the ginger family, is an Indian spice that has been utilized for centuries to treat inflammation and boost the immune system. The Arthritis Foundation shares that multiple studies have illustrated turmeric’s effects on both preventing joint inflammation (by blocking the enzymes that cause it) as well as providing long-term improvement in pain and functionality of people with osteoarthritis. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids including flaxseed oil, fatty fish, walnuts, eggs, and chia seeds help fight joint inflammation associated with arthritis too.
Compression Makes Pain Worse
FALSE. When squeezed too tightly, yes, arthritis pain can be amplified, however, correct compression from a wrap, brace, or compression gloves, for example, can actually help stabilize joints and reduce inflammation. Mild to moderate compression has shown to boost blood circulation to hands, feet, and legs, reducing painful inflammation and stiffness, as well as keeping those body parts warm when they might normally feeler colder and more uncomfortable.
Exercising Exacerbates Arthritis Symptoms
FALSE. Fears over inducing more painful inflammation by exercising keeps many arthritis sufferers from getting out and staying fit. The opposite is true, however. Inactivity can actually lead to stiffer, tighter joints, as well as weight gain which can worsen arthritis pain and joint degradation over time. Low-impact exercises can aid arthritis sufferers by boosting blood circulation, loosening joints, and strengthening muscles to support those joints. Yoga and tai chi make wonderful mindfulness-cultivating exercises which incorporate gentle stretching with deep breathing and meditation. Other low-impact activities might include swimming, taking brisk walks, or bicycling.
You may have other assumptions about arthritis, like that glucosamine supplements, help rebuild joints (they don’t really) or that only older people get arthritis (wrong, even babies and children can develop arthritis). No matter what you’ve heard or been told, it’s always best practice to consult your doctor if you are worried about arthritis symptoms. Early stage steps to prevent progression and come up with a natural pain treatment plan will pay off big time down the line.