8 Common Misconceptions About Osteoarthritis
When it comes to managing a chronic condition like osteoarthritis (OA), few things pose as much of a challenge as bad information. Unfortunately, misconceptions about osteoarthritis are widespread. Don’t miss this myth-busting guide to understanding osteoarthritis:
Osteoarthritis Affects Bone Density
FALSE. Easy to mix up with a completely different condition called osteoporosis (when bones become brittle and weak due to bone loss), osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that specifically affects the joints between bones. Degeneration of the cartilage which cushions the joints between bones results in bone-on-bone rubbing, loss of lubricating synovial joint fluid, pain, and inflammation.
Exercise Makes Joint Pain Worse
FALSE. While it seems like prolonged physical movement through exercise could exacerbate osteoarthritis discomfort, research has shown that low-impact fitness can actually loosen joints and help them move more fluidly. Orthotic aids like Kinesio tape, compression sleeves, and braces can help support vulnerable joints during a workout. More info here > https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/knee-brace-for-osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis Only Affects Older Adults
FALSE. Young adults can also suffer from osteoarthritis, even those who are physically active or play sports. In fact, athletes who sustain knee injuries when they are younger (i.e. a torn ACL as a teenage), have a much higher risk of developing OA later in life. While risk does increase with age, osteoarthritis is still the most common form of arthritis affecting over 30 million people in the U.S.
Nutrition Doesn’t Affect Outcome
FALSE. Not only can diet and nutrition help alleviate osteoarthritis-related pain and inflammation but managing a healthy weight can have a huge impact on the chances of someone developing osteoporosis in the first place. John Hopkins Arthritis Centers shares that women who are overweight are 4 times more likely to develop OA and the risk for overweight men is 5 times as high as their non-overweight counterparts.
Osteoarthritis Can Be Caused By Weather
FALSE. Joint cartilage can break down for a variety of reasons including carrying too much weight that stresses the joints, repetitive motions, and overuse. While weather does not make the list of “causes,” it has been shown to amplify the pain associated with OA. Some researchers believe a drop in barometric pressure which often accompanies damp and rainy weather can lead to a painful osteoarthritis flare-up.
Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
FALSE. The age-old wives tale that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis later in life has made the rounds for decades. Studies show, however, that there is no correlation between knuckle cracking and developing arthritis later in life. And in fact, it’s been revealed through real-time MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) that the “cracking” sound in your knuckles is actually a tiny cavity of nitrogen gas being suddenly formed in your synovial joint fluid.
Having Parents with OA Means You Will Get It
NOT ALWAYS. While there is some genetic predisposition to developing osteoarthritis if it runs in your family, i.e. your mom has it, that doesn’t guarantee you will be diagnosed with it too. Lowering your risk of OA is possible through regular exercise that doesn’t involve a ton of jumping and strain on your joints as well as maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding inflammatory foods (sugar, white flour, fried foods, etc).
NSAIDs are the Safest Treatment for Osteoporosis
NOT ALWAYS. While NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are used to help reduce swelling that causes some arthritic joint pain, they carry their own dangerous side effects including gastric ulceration and kidney problems. Elderly adults are at higher risk for complications from extended NSAID use and should exercise caution when managing OA-related pain. Additional treatment options for osteoarthritis include topical ointments, steroid injections, surgery, COX-2 inhibitors, exercise, and weight reduction.
Parsing fact from fiction when it comes to understanding osteoarthritis can go a long way in helping both prevent and treat it. Always consult your doctor regarding your joint pain to receive a comprehensive diagnosis and customize a treatment and management plan together.