8 myths about arthritis

Image: 8 myths about arthritis

Did you know that over 4.6 million Canadian adults, or one in six Canadians aged 15 years and older report having arthritis?

By 2036, this number is expected to grow to an estimated 7.5 million Canadian adults – one in five (Arthritis Society of Canada).

September is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Those living with this disease are burdened with chronic pain and disability. The main symptoms of arthritis, which can result in significant disability and poor quality of life include:

  • chronic joint pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling

There are many common misconceptions about arthritis and the affect it has on our bodies. In this blog post from Everything Zoomer, author Elizabeth Rogers, debunks eight common myths about arthritis:

Myth 1: It's not too serious... right?

Wrong. Arthritis is a pain in both the joints, and the pocketbook.

Arthroscope: Revealing the impact of arthritis (a report from the Arthritis Society) says arthritis is one of Canada's top three chronic conditions. When it comes to cost, the prognosis isn't much better. It turns out musculoskeletal diseases are the second most expensive diseases in Canada, even more costly than cancer.

Myth 2: Like grey hair, it's just part of the aging process

Arthritis isn't an "old person's disease". It can strike at any age – even infancy.

Myth 3: All arthritis is alike

"Arthritis" is an umbrella term for more than 100 related diseases affecting certain joints, tissues, or even the whole body.

Myth 4: It only affects the joints

As evidenced above, arthritis isn't a one-trick pony. Anything from muscles to tendons to connective tissue to bones and bursa (the fluid-filled sacs around joints) can fall victim. Systemic conditions like lupus even affect the body's vital organs.

On top of that, it may even play with your emotions. Arthritis can cause depression, anger, disrupted sleep, fever, unexplained weight loss, weakness and fatigue – not to mention the psychological stress of living with chronic pain.

Myth 5: Arthritis can be cured

Sadly, barring infectious arthritis (the kind caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus), there isn't a cure. It is possible for some forms to go into periods of remission where symptoms subside, sometimes for several years, but it doesn't really go away.

Myth 6: Pain pills are the only treatment option

It's true that many people with osteoarthritis take acetaminophen, while others try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to keep inflammation in check. Still, while meds help, they aren't the only way to manage symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy can improve mobility, flexibility, and help make everyday activities and hobbies more enjoyable. For some, surgery may be required to remove all or part of an affected joint. Others find relief in everything from massage to acupuncture to guided imagery techniques and, yes, even the healing power of laughter.

Myth 7: Exercise makes it worse

Put your sweatband back on – exercise is now recognized as an essential part of a pain management strategy. Exercise helps maintain strength, balance and range of motion. Besides, extra weight just puts excess strain on the joints.

Myth 8: You can't do anything to prevent it

There's a lot we don't know about arthritis, and we can't do anything about some of our risk factors (age, sex or heredity). However, healthy lifestyle choices like proper diets, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk.