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Arthritis is a common problem that affects many people. It can cause mild or severe pain and stiffness. Arthritis has a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. There has been a lot of research into arthritis that has given us a new insight into the condition, yet many people do not get the proper help and treatment they need. They may even be unaware that they have arthritis at all. Here are some common myths about arthritis, having a better understanding of it can help you or your family manage your pain better.

 

1. Arthritis only affects old people.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect babies, elderly people and everyone in between. It’s an auto-immune condition, which means that the body starts attacking healthy tissue.
 
Osteoarthritis is linked to old age. With osteoarthritis, the joints become worn and torn, causing swelling and inflammation. Anything that puts extra strain on your joints, such as obesity, regular sport or a manual job can increase your risk of getting it. Osteoarthritis is more common than rheumatoid arthritis, but osteoarthritis can still happen at any age, depending on your lifestyle or any injuries you may have had. Osteoarthritis most often affects people aged 40 or older, so while it is associated with age, you don’t have to be elderly to suffer from it.

 

This is a harmful myth because when we have joint pain in our young adulthood or middle age, we may just assume we simply aren’t old enough to develop arthritis. This can stop people from getting a diagnosis. The sooner arthritis is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better your outcome will be.

 

2. There is nothing you can do about arthritis.

 

Growing up, you may have seen family members struggle with arthritis without getting any treatment and assumed that arthritis is an inevitable part of ageing, much like getting wrinkles.  While there is no cure for arthritis, it is not something you have to just ‘put up with’. Research into arthritis is on-going and new discoveries and treatments are being made all the time.

 

20 years ago, the medicine and treatments used to stop rheumatoid arthritis from attacking the joints weren’t available. Now, getting a diagnosis as soon as your symptoms start can slow it down.

 

Osteoarthritis can also be treated effectively with medicine and/or physiotherapy. As there are many different types of arthritis, treatment can widely vary. It’s really important to get a thorough diagnosis.

 

3. If you have arthritis, you should take it easy and avoid exercise.

 

Arthritis sufferers tend to become inactive and worry that exercise will hurt their joints. While you should avoid any activity that causes you a lot of pain, it’s important to stay mobile to avoid muscle loss and to ensure your joints stay as strong and healthy as they possibly can. Some types of exercise are not recommended for people with arthritis, such as jogging but other types like swimming are gentle on the joints and can really help you feel better and stop your arthritis from getting worse. A physio may recommend a specific set of exercises that will strengthen your joints without aggravating them, even if you are in severe pain.

 

4. If you have arthritis glucosamine can help you get better.

 

Glucosamine has been shown to help some people with osteoarthritis, but it doesn’t work for everybody. Glucosamine supplements are expensive and you could be wasting your money on them. It’s best to see a GP for advice about supplements, relying on supplements that aren’t working might mean that you are investing into the wrong type of treatment. Something else could work much better.

 

5. Cutting out certain foods can help arthritis flare ups

 

The diet industry does not always publish reliable information. Some people have been led to believe that cutting out citrus fruits and vegetables from the nightshade family (such as potatoes, tomatoes, chilli, peppers and aubergines) will help them avoid flare ups. According to Arthritis Research UK, this information is false and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that these are bad for arthritis. These foods are rich in nutrients and it is not recommended that you cut them out of your diet. There is a theory that some types of arthritis can be caused by food allergies, but again, Arthritis Research UK has found no link between food allergies and arthritis.

 

Although cutting foods out of your diet has not been proven to help arthritis, people with obesity and type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer from it. A healthy diet can help prevent or slow down the progression of arthritis; particularly a diet with plenty of fish, lean meats, nuts and vegetables. So rather than removing food groups from your diet, work on adding in healthier options.

 

There is also a myth that spices like turmeric will help reduce the inflammation in your joints. These spices do have anti-inflammatory properties, but scientists are unsure about the quantities needed to reduce chronic inflammation. Eating plenty of spices won’t hurt you, but don’t be disappointed that they aren’t working and don’t feel guilty about taking anti-inflammatory medication. It’s not always possible to control pain through natural remedies.

 

6.  Complementary therapy doesn’t help arthritis

 

There are many forms of therapy marketed at helping arthritis. Some have been proven to work and some haven’t. Wearing copper or magnetic bracelets is something some people with arthritis choose to do, there is no scientific evidence to support that these techniques work, but if you feel like you wish to try these methods they won’t hurt you or make your pain worse.

 

Therapies like massage, aromatherapy or acupuncture have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. They won’t make your arthritis go away, but they can help you manage your pain. Having regular sessions of acupuncture or massage works the best as the pain relief is not permanent. Some people do find that they break a cycle of pain after a few sessions and their pain does not return for some time. So you may only require alternative therapy sessions once in a while, when you feel like you need it.

 

There are about 200 different types of arthritis which fall into 5 main conditions; inflammatory, degenerative or mechanical, soft tissue musculoskeletal pain, back pain and connective tissue disease. It’s impossible to give comprehensive advice in one blog post, or even in a long book! If you are having any kind of joint pain or stiffness the best thing to do is to get professional help so you can make sure that you have the correct diagnosis. A doctor and physiotherapist will help to formulate a care plan that’s right for you. A diagnosis of arthritis no longer means you have to reside yourself to a life of progressive pain. There are many different types of treatments and things that can be done to help you manage your pain, it’s just a case of finding out what’s going to suit you the best. To get help with your joint pain, call us on 0114 268 6677 or email info@sheffieldphysiotherapy.co.uk and we’ll be able to advise which steps to take.