We might know a lot about heart disease and cancer, but arthritis? Aside from recognizing a few symptoms, joint pain and stiffness, most of us are pretty clueless. This makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction and, unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there. The good news is we’ve done the research. To give you a better understanding of what arthritis really is, we’re highlighting common myths you should stop believing.
1. There’s only one kind of arthritis
Arthritis isn’t just one condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions that are considered arthritis. WebMD highlights the three most common types, which you’re probably familiar with: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Each one is unique and requires its own type of treatment, so it’s important to be familiar with the different kinds if you start to notice joint pain. Of course, only a doctor can make a proper diagnosis.
2. Cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis
If you’ve ever been warned cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis, you can calm down. According to WebMD, there’s no proof the habit is linked to the condition. So what exactly is that sound? Harvard Health Publications explains the noise occurs when bubbles burst inside the fluid that lubricates your joints, which happens when you apply pressure. It might be annoying, but it doesn’t increase your risk for arthritis.
However, the same Harvard article adds long-term knuckle cracking may cause swollen hands and lead to poor grip strength. So, you should probably cut back on the habit regardless.
3. Only old people get arthritis
It’s easy to assume arthritis only affects old people, but that’s not the case. Although risk does increase with age, the Arthritis Foundation says two-thirds of people who have arthritis are younger than 65. In fact, 300,000 children are affected. While there are some ways you can reduce risk for certain types like rheumatoid arthritis, a young age doesn’t put you in the clear.
4. Arthritis has nothing to do with diet
Food plays a pivotal role in your overall well-being and can even affect your arthritis risk. There isn’t a set diet you should follow if you’ve been diagnosed, but the Arthritis Foundation reports there are some foods that can help control inflammation. Specifically, foods that are part of the well-known Mediterranean lifestyle. This includes fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts, fruits, vegetables, beans, and olive oil are also good choices.
Additionally, there are certain foods and ingredients you should limit. Foods high in saturated and trans fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates are among the most common that can cause inflammation, so you should avoid them whenever you can.
5. You can’t exercise if you have arthritis
There’s no need to step away from exercise if you have arthritis. As a matter of fact, exercise can help ease joint pain while increasing strength and flexibility, according to Mayo Clinic. It can also help you maintain bone strength and increase your energy. But don’t worry, you don’t have to train for a marathon or take on too strenuous of a workout. Moderate exercise can be enough to keep your body moving and minimize your pain. Just make sure to speak with your doctor about what exercise is best for you to avoid aggravating painful joints.