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Debunking Arthritis Myths: Truths About the Painful Joint Disease

Dec 04, 2009

Arthritis is a misunderstood disease with many myths and misconceptions. With more than 100 kinds of the condition that causes inflammation of the joints—such as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, which is characterized by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage—doctors encourage people to learn more about it. Greater understanding is necessary as Baby Boomers age. More than 40 million people in the United States currently have some form of arthritis, and by 2020, the number is expected to rise to 59 million.

“Arthritis is the most common chronic illness in the United States,” said Henry Finn, M.D., chief of orthopedic surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital, medical director of the University of Chicago Bone & Joint Replacement Center at Weiss, and professor of surgery at the University of Chicago. “Without a proper understanding of it and its treatments, people will unnecessarily live with severe joint pain or limited joint function.”

To make sense of the many myths of arthritis, see your healthcare professional or check out these Healthful Hints from the experts at Weiss Memorial Hospital:

Myth 1: Arthritis is an old person’s disease: One of the most common misconceptions of the disease is that it primarily affects seniors. While osteoarthritis is more common in older people, children, young adults and the middle-aged can have arthritis.

Myth 2: Arthritis is induced by a cold, wet climate: If warm temperatures kept away the disease, Southern California would be arthritis free. Bone rubbing on bone after cartilage has worn away causes pain in any climate. However, warmth—like hot baths or heating pads—can be soothing to joint pain and may relieve some symptoms.

Myth 3: Arthritis can be prevented: To date, there is no known way to prevent arthritis, however, there are many treatment options that slow the disease’s progression, such as the cartilage-enhancing supplement Glucosamine, anti-inflammatory medication or exercise. But nothing has been found to successfully halt the disease. Total joint replacement is the only cure.

Myth 4: Arthritis is caused by a poor diet: While a healthy diet is key to hold many diseases at bay and living a longer life, there are few examples of a diet holding off arthritis. Additionally, there are no specific “miracle foods” that provide a cure.

Myth 5: You have arthritis so you can’t… : Sometimes the limitations that arthritis imposes on an individual can cause people closest to them to become overprotective. While the disease does interfere with some physical ability, an arthritic person should not be viewed as disabled. Staying active and independent as long as possible are healthy for not only physical but also emotional reasons.