First, let's get the facts about arthritis before we delve into the most common myths. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, one in five people, or 46 million Americans, suffer with some form of arthritis. Arthritis isn't just one disease. In fact, there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis. It's really a group of conditions that involve damage to the joints of the body. The most common form is osteoarthritis. This condition is caused by either the result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint - or age. Other forms of arthritis include: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and autoimmune disease.
Arthritis takes a heavy toll on us. Nearly 1,000,000 hospitalizations every year occur because of the condition and there are close to 45,000,000 outpatient visits to health care centers. Pain, limited function of joints, and inflammation of the joints, which is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth are the most common symptoms of arthritis. Conditions like lupus, like gout, and fibromyalgia also fall under the arthritis umbrella.
Those are the facts about arthritis. Now lets tackle those myths:
MYTH: Theres a quick fix for the condition.
Although arthritis is an annual billion-dollar business, too much of it goes to promised miracle cures. Doctors say there is no such thing. Any treatment that promises an overnight cure such as unproven pills, devices, and minimally invasive surgery, are probably a waste of money. What's the proven treatment for an advanced form of arthritis? It's joint replacement surgery, which replaces diseased joints with artificial surfaces, allowing for joint movement similar to that of a healthy natural joint.
MYTH: Only older people get arthritis.
It's true that some forms of arthritis, like osteoarthritis, is most common in the elderly, but there are other types of arthritis that affect younger people such as rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, currently more than half of those who suffer with the symptoms of arthritis are under sixty-five years of age.
MYTH: Weather makes arthritis symptoms much worse.
Lots of folks with arthritis believe the damp and cold make their pains worse. But according the Arthritis Foundation, it's just not true. There are no scientific studies that support the belief.
MYTH: Exercise worsens arthritis pain.
In fact, the opposite is true. Moderate exercise not only can help prevent the disease it can also help to treat it in three important ways: 1) it promotes function and mobility, 2) controls weight 3) and strengthens the muscles that support the joints. It's probably best to avoid high-impact exercises like aerobics, step classes, or jogging, especially if your knees bother you. But low-impact exercises such as walking, yoga, tai chi or swimming are all beneficial. Before beginning an exercise program, speak with your doctor.
MYTH: Calcium deficiency is responsible.
Well, this is a little tricky. It's true that calcium is key to preventing osteoporosis, which is a disease of the bones -- not the joints. Its also a fact that people with osteoporosis sometimes develop arthritis. However, inadequate calcium is not an arthritis risk factor. Follow the CDC guidelines to make sure you're getting enough calcium in your diet. Indeed, you might need supplements.
MYTH: Snapping on a joint or pulling it causes arthritis.
Finger cracking, a common habit, does not bring on arthritis. The cracking is caused by something called a negative nitrogen bubble and is harmless.
MYTH: Being double-jointed leads to the disease.
Theres really no such thing as being "double-jointed" because nobody has two joints where there should only be one. Some folks do have extra flexibility (hyper-mobility) but there's no research that connects it with arthritis.
MYTH: Slumping posture brings on arthritis.
If you constantly walk around, or sit, with bad posture, it will cause stiffness, pain and perhaps headaches but it wont help you develop arthritis.
Knowing the facts about arthritis can help you find real relief. Speak to your doctor about available treatments and medications.
Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.
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