Osteoarthritis Myths: True or False
Arthritis is thought to affect approximately 10 million people in the UK. There are varying forms of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis. Symptoms usually include joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
As with many health conditions there are multiple myths and misinformation surrounding the condition, much of it untrue and not supported by evidence.
Below are some of the common thoughts and opinions surrounding osteoarthritis, some true and some false.
Exercise is bad for your joints:
This is a common misconception and belief in this myth can be detrimental to an individuals’ management of their joint health. Alongside weight loss and patient education, exercise is the most effective way in managing arthritis. Exercise enhances the strength and endurance of muscles supporting joints, therefore reducing stress on affected joint surfaces.
In contrast to exercise being bad for your joints, some research found the opposite whereby running actually improved joint health. In this study a sample of recreational runners completed their first marathon and an MRI performed before and after training began. MRI findings showed an improvement in the health of joint surfaces and joint cartilage (Horga et. Al 2019).
The main benefits of exercise in managing OA are:
Increasing joint strength and stability
Improving movement quality
Decreasing pain and increasing joint mobility
Increasing mood and energy levels
Controlling body weight
Depending on the degree of pain and restriction an individual is experiencing, not all forms of exercises are appropriate. However, some form of movement is better than none. Joint movement encourages the production of synovial fluid around the joint, which in turn helps lubricate joints and provide nutrients to joint surfaces. Consequently, this increased movement improves overall joint health.
Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis:
While cracking joints such as your knuckles might sound quite unpleasant, it does not cause any joint damage of changes. It is simply a release of gas that builds up around the joint, with the change in joint pressure.
Everyone gets arthritis as they get older:
Although increased age is one of the risk factors for developing arthritis, there are numerous other risk factors in play. It is usually the combination of all of these factors that leads to individuals developing arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis. Management of risk factors and lifestyle modifications can reduce the severity and slow the progression of symptoms e.g. weight management, increased exercise, improved diet, improved sleeping patterns, a favourable work-life balance.
Cold, damp weather makes arthritis worse:
While cold, wet weather does not cause the onset of arthritis, there have been anecdotal reports of symptoms worsening in these conditions. One body of research reported an increased in OA related joint pain where weather conditions were quite humid (Timmermans et al. 2015).
Chilli can help with OA pain:
This is surprisingly true. Capsican cream or gel may be prescribed by your GP if appropriate. It is make from pepper extract and has been found to be useful in managing pain associated with OA, shingles and other types of neuropathic pain by supposedly blocking the transmission of pain impulses from the affected area.
If you are suffering from joint pain and stiffness and struggling to self-manage contact us here today. Our physios and chiropractor experienced in dealing arthritis and will be able to offer education and advice surrounding management of symptoms and tailored exercises and help manage the condition.
Written by Niamh Wynne, Physiotherapist