When a person is in pain due a bone or joint problems it can be hard to get moving and keep moving. Arthritis is a group of conditions that affect 4.6 Million Canadians over the age of 15, causing joint pain and swelling.1 Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Canada and its impact on society is increasing.2
Seven common myths about arthritis
Myth 1: Arthritis is an old person’s disease.
Three of every 1,000 Canadian children live with a form of Arthritis.1 Three in five Canadians diagnosed with arthritis are working age.1 Arthritic conditions cost the Canadian economy $33 billion in lost productivity as well as health-care costs each year.1
Myth 2: Arthritis is a normal part of the aging process.
Arthritis is common among older Canadians, but it is not a normal part of aging. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other types of inflammatory arthritis are autoimmune disorders,1,3 while osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with joint trauma and obesity.1 By dismissing arthritis as a normal part of aging many Canadians do not access the treatment and resources they need to help them manage their condition.2
Myth 3: My parents both had arthritis, so I’m bound to get it.
Genetics does play a role in whether someone is at risk for arthritis,3,4 but other factors such as trauma and obesity are more closely related to whether or not you develop arthritis.2
Myth 4: The amount of joint damage on an x-ray directly relates to the pain and disability a person has.
Bone or joint damage on an x-ray is not necessarily related to pain or loss of function.4 Many factors contribute to the degree of disability a person experiences. In the late stages of RA, there is a relationship between joint damage and disability,5 but in the early stages of RA5 and throughout the course of OA4 the link between joint change and disability is much weaker.
Myth 5: Running causes arthritis.
A 2013 study of 90,000 runners found that there was no evidence that running increases a person’s risk of developing arthritis. In fact, those who ran 12.4 km/wk or more were at a lower risk for developing OA.6
Myth 6: If you crack your knuckles you will get arthritis.
Although it is true that when joints have significant arthritic changes they may make a considerable amount of noise; cracking and clunking when moved. However, there is no evidence that intentionally cracking your knuckles or other joints causes or is even associated with arthritis.7
Myth 7: Only a medical specialist can treat arthritis.
Physiotherapists can help you to manage the pain and inflammation of arthritis and provide you with exercises to minimize joint stiffness and maintain muscle strength which will help limit the disabling effects of arthritis.3 If you do need to see a surgeon for joint replacement, physiotherapists will be involved in your care both before and after your surgery to ensure that you regain your strength and maximize use of your new joint.
What is arthritis?
Arthritic conditions are divided into OA and inflammatory arthritis. OA is a “progressive joint disease that occurs when damaged joint tissues lose their normal ability to repair themselves, leading to a breakdown of cartilage and bone”2 RA is the most common of the inflammatory types of arthritis, which are associated with joint inflammation, pain and stiffness, as well as chronic systemic inflammation, fatigue and an increased risk of mortality.2
What causes arthritis?
There is no single cause of arthritis. Typically a combination of risk factors lead to joint changes and impairment. Risk factors for OA include injuries, obesity, age and family history.2,4 RA is an autoimmune disease that only occurs in those with both a genetic predisposition and a trigger to activate the autoimmune response that leads to joint inflammation, pain and dysfunction.3 The ‘trigger’ that activates RA is unknown.3
Can I avoid arthritis?
When it comes to RA, the best thing you can do is to see your doctor if you develop joint pain and follow up diligently with any treatment recommendations or specialist referrals.2,3,5 Early diagnosis and treatment are especially important for inflammatory arthritis such as RA. Some research indicates modest healing of bone damage can occur with treatment using anti-rheumatic drugs5 and treatment “has important effects on disability. Patients who delay seeking specialist advice often develop severe disability.”5
Whether you have OA or RA, maintaining a healthy body weight will decrease the stress placed on your joints and help to manage your symptoms.2,3 Becoming active can help to control body weight and moving joints through their available range of movement can help to keep them healthy and prevent stiffness.3 Increasing muscle strength can decrease the disability often faced by those with RA.3
Use common sense to avoid injury while being active to help you to avoid OA2 and help limit the joint damage of RA.3