Jun 9, 2016

Four Myths about Arthritis and Joint Pain

Over three million people in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Although this disease is so widespread, many people don’t really understand what it is, how it affects people, and what they can do to ease their pain.

We are going to debunk four common myths about arthritis and joint pain. We hope that learning the facts about this disease will empower our patients to take control of their health and find the relief they seek.

Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

“Don’t crack your knuckles!” your mother scolded you whenever she heard that snap-crackle-pop erupting from your fingers. “You’ll get arthritis one day if you keep it up!”

Mom was right about many things, but the link between arthritis and cracking your knuckles isn’t one of them. This is good news for those who often crack our knuckles without even realizing what we’re doing. While the noise can be satisfying or scary, depending on who’s listening, one thing is sure: what you hear is not the sound of your bones. That cracking sound is actually caused by excess nitrogen gas popping between your joints. The news gets better: there is no known link between cracking your knuckles and an increased risk of developing arthritis. Whew.

On the other hand, a study from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center did find a link between cracking knuckles and injuries to the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints, which could weaken a person’s grip over time. This means you may want to break your knuckle-cracking habit anyway, just to be on the safe side.

Arthritis only affects the elderly.

Picture the typical arthritis patient. What do you see? A white-haired grandmother? An older man? While older generations are at risk for arthritis, this disease doesn’t affect them alone.

While some specific conditions, such as osteoporosis, mostly afflict older people, other diseases are less picky. It might surprise you to learn that two-thirds of people who have arthritis are younger than 65. In the United States alone, nearly 300,000 children under 18 have arthritis or joint pain.

It’s essential to be aware of younger people who suffer from these diseases, as it lessens the stigma and makes them more likely to seek out the help they need. It is also crucial for their friends and family to be aware of what they’re going through and support their plight, rather than saying something insensitive and unhelpful, like “I thought only old people got that!” 

Exercise will make arthritis worse.

Regular, sensible exercise can actually help your arthritis and alleviate some pain and stiffness. While arthritic joints sometimes need a short period of rest followed by a gradual return to activity, it is crucial to maintain your strength and range of motion in your joints. Just be sure to know your limits and pay attention to your body’s signals. Some good physical activities for arthritis patients include:

[Stuck at home? Click here for some great couch activity tips!]

Arthritis is genetic.

While your genes can affect your risk of developing arthritis, your lifestyle can have a significant effect on your joints’ health. Factors within your control and/or variables, such as your weight, age, pre-existing injuries, and the amount of strain you place on your joints, can all contribute to the existence and advancement of joint pain and disease.

The idea that arthritis is genetic is one of the most dangerous myths. It tricks people into accepting their pain and assuming there’s nothing they can do to halt or lessen it.

The truth is that there are many strategies and treatments available to people with arthritis and joint pain. We should know—at Carolina Arthritis, we treat people every day for a variety of diseases and conditions, often with great success. While your family history can affect your health, your fate is by no means inevitable.

If you suffer from arthritis or joint pain, there are many options available to you at Carolina Arthritis. Contact us today to learn more about living a pain-free life.