Millions manage the crippling symptoms of arthritis, including morning stiffness and joint swelling, daily. According to the CDC, 54 million Americans live with some type of arthritis, making it the leading cause of disability in this country. In fact, there are more individuals living with arthritis than those with breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autism combined, based on research from the Arthritis Foundation.
As prevalent as this condition is, it’s understandable how the facts about arthritis can get mixed up in the general public at times. Licensed neuromuscular therapist, Ephraim Colwell has helped many people manage the painful symptoms of arthritis using hands-on techniques that allow muscles to relax and reduce stiffness in joints. With over 15 years of experience, he has also helped numerous clients address their concerns and questions about arthritis.
In order to highlight and educate the prevalence of arthritis in our society during Arthritis
Awareness Month, Ephraim debunks 5 myths about arthritis we hear every day.
1. You can’t prevent arthritis.
The good news about arthritis is that certain lifestyle choices like heavy smoking or being overweight can be avoided to help prevent the condition from developing. These risk factors increase a person’s chances of developing osteoarthritis since extra pounds from overeating put stress on the body’s joints. Also, research has found that smokers are more likely to experience joint damage that turns into a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis. This is because toxins from cigarette smoke weaken cartilage and the immune system. Other controllable risk factors that can help prevent arthritis are previous joint injuries or having an occupation that requires repetitive movement or manual labor.
2. Arthritis is an old person’s disease.
Despite popular belief, arthritis is not a disease that is limited to elderly individuals. According to the Arthritis Foundation, almost two-thirds of adults in the U.S. with arthritis are less than 64 years old. Of course, growing older does make our bodies and bones more fragile, however regular exercise counteracts most of those signs of aging. Categories of arthritis that develop in younger people include psoriatic arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis which can cause joint inflammation in people age 16 and under. Even rheumatoid arthritis can develop in teenagers due to hormonal changes during puberty.
3. Cracking your knuckles can cause or worsen arthritis.
There is no evidence that shows a connection between cracking your joints and arthritis. The popping sound is actually just bubbles bursting in the synovial fluid — the fluid that helps lubricate joints within the spaces between tendons. Unless a person feels ongoing pain after cracking their joints, it is nothing to worry about. This old wives’ tale probably started as a way to discourage others from making the loud, sometimes annoying, popping and cracking sounds with their hands.
4. Arthritis can be cured.
Unfortunately, science has not found a cure for any of the various types of arthritis. Arthritis treatments like neuromuscular therapy or over-the-counter drugs can only focus on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. Those with arthritis may achieve a temporary reduction of their symptoms, called remission, but this does not always last. This is why it is easy to mistake remission of the disease for the joints being completely cured. One theory for why remission and relapse of arthritis happens is because the body becomes resistant to the medication that once worked to alleviate symptoms.
5. Arthritis is a normal part of aging.
Although, historically, people have assumed arthritis is associated with old age; it is not an inevitable part of life that we all must face. It is true that as we age it is normal to lose bone density, however, arthritic aches and pains are not a rite of passage for growing older. In fact, if you do not have arthritis currently, there may still be hope that you can avoid it altogether by staying active and limiting high-risk behavior like smoking. This is why having a consistent exercise routine and balanced diet become more and more important to maintaining one’s health as they age. Even the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, whose chances of developing do increase with age, can be circumvented with certain lifestyle changes.
Hopefully, this helps separate fact from fiction as it pertains to this widespread chronic disease. One thing is for sure if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of arthritis it is important to see a doctor soon since early detection and treatment are essential to effectively slow the progression of the disease and prevent permanent joint damage.
About the Writer:
Ephraim is a certified neuromuscular therapist with over 15 years of experience, and owner of Myopress Inc. Ephraim transformed a need to help his mother combat the crippling effects of cancer, into a mission to help others manage pain and rebalance their lives with neuromuscular therapy. He opened his first office in 2006 and currently operates two offices in Cypress and Bellaire.
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/features/arthritisawareness/index.html
2. Arthritis Foundation – http://blog.arthritis.org/news/revealing-truth-arthritis-arthritis-awareness-month
3. WebMD – https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/news/20020315/cigarettes-cause-more-sev ere-arthritis
4. Harvard Health – https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/does-knuckle-cracking-cause-arthritis