Debunking Myths about Arthritis

Arthritis is the name for a group of conditions that damage joints causing pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. It affects 34% of Albertans and nearly four million Canadians, 15 years and older – that is almost one in six people (1). Arthritis isn’t just an older person’s disease; it can affect children and people in the prime of life. Arthritis can be relatively mild or very severe, but common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain and aching
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness or reduced movement
  • Muscle weakness
  • Reduced function

Causes of arthritis

Arthritis is the thinning or destruction of joint cartilage caused by inflammation or excessive wear and tear. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, the most common forms are:

  • Osteoarthritis (usually affects hands and weight-bearing joints like hips, knees, feet, and spine)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (can affect all joints in the body)
  • Gout (affects the foot)

There are many possible contributing factors for arthritis including:

  • Genetics or inheritance
  • Previous injury or fracture
  • Infection
  • Overactive immune system

How chiropractic care can help

Chiropractors are highly skilled at assessing how arthritis affects joint movement, muscle strength and physical function. Research demonstrates that specific exercises targeted at improving joint mobility and increasing muscle strength help manage arthritis and improve function.

Your chiropractor will:

  • Assess the affected area and ask about daily activities to assess the impact on your joints
  • Develop a treatment plan to safely improve or restore movement and mobility affected by arthritis
  • Help you manage your condition through education and treatment to reduce pain and swelling, strengthen muscles and increase joint mobility without worsening your arthritis symptoms

With arthritis being ranked as one of the leading causes of disability in Canada, there seems to be a growing body of misinformation available to people (2). Here are some of the most common myths we typically hear in clinic from patients:

Myth 1: Arthritis is an old person’s disease.

Three of every 1,000 Canadian children live with a form of Arthritis (1). Three in five Canadians diagnosed with arthritis are of working age (1). Arthritic conditions cost the Canadian economy $33 billion in lost productivity as well as health-care costs each year (1).

Myth 2: Arthritis is a normal part of the aging process.

Arthritis is common among older Canadians, but it is not a normal part of aging. In fact, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other types of inflammatory arthritis are autoimmune disorders (1,3) while osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with joint trauma and obesity (1). By dismissing arthritis as a normal part of aging many Canadians do not access the treatment and resources they need to help them manage their condition, resulting in a life of pain, altered biomechanics, altered wear on the joints which ultimately results in the arthritis progressing (2).

Myth 3: My parents both had arthritis, so I’m bound to get it.

Genetics does play a role in whether someone is at risk for arthritis (3,4) but other factors such as trauma and obesity are more closely related to whether or not you develop arthritis (2).

Myth 4: The amount of joint damage on an x-ray directly relates to the pain and disability a person has.

Bone or joint damage on an x-ray is not necessarily related to pain or loss of function (4). Many factors contribute to the degree of disability a person experiences. In the late stages of RA, there is a relationship between joint damage and disability (5), but in the early stages of RA  and throughout the course of OA the link between joint change and disability is much weaker (4, 5).

Some people might have an X-Ray of their knee showing major arthritic changes but not have any symptoms. Another person may have the most excruciating symptoms, yet their X-Ray shows only a tiny speck of arthritis! Why is this? Because tissue damage or degeneration DOES NOT equal pain. Pain is an extremely complex phenomenon. It is multifactorial and can be affected by emotional and environmental factors, as well as physical ones.

Myth 5: Running causes arthritis.

A 2013 study of 90,000 runners found that there was no evidence that running increases a person’s risk of developing arthritis. In fact, those who ran 12.4 km/wk or more were at a lower risk for developing OA (6)

Myth 6: If you crack your knuckles you will get arthritis.

Although it is true that when joints have significant arthritic changes they may make a considerable amount of noise; cracking and clunking when moved. However, there is no evidence that intentionally cracking your knuckles or other joints causes or is even associated with arthritis (7). With that said, you may want to proceed with caution as research has shown there is a link between cracking knuckles and injury to ligaments surrounding these joints, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Myth 7: Only a medical specialist can treat arthritis.

Chiropractors can help you to manage the pain and inflammation of arthritis and provide you with exercises to minimize joint stiffness and maintain muscle strength which will help limit the disabling effects of arthritis.

Myth 8: You shouldn’t exercise with arthritis

On the contrary, doing the RIGHT kind of exercise is extremely beneficial for arthritic joints.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that exercise be incorporated into arthritis sufferers daily routine.

This doesn’t mean you need to do an iron man every day! Instead, your chiropractor will prescribe targeted strength training exercises specially to address your affected joints. This works by building the strength around the joint to allow it to work better. It also decreases the joint pain. In addition, general aerobic fitness is also recommended. Aqua fitness (preforming exercises in water) allows you to preform aerobic exercise in a buoyant environment, offloading the joints and is an incredibly fun and comfortable way to exercise for all ages.

Linford Chiropractic care for arthritis can be highly effective in reducing joint pain and improving mobility. There are a number of treatments that can be used to help control symptoms and advice from one of our chiropractors can help you to understand what is happening to your joints and muscles when you have arthritis. Our chiropractors can also work with you to put effective management strategies in place to keep you moving and minimize your pain.

If you are suffering from arthritic pain, give Linford Chiropractic a call today. Your aching joints will thank you for it!

References:

  1. The Arthritis Society. Arthritis in Canada: Facts & Figures. Available at: http://www.arthritis.ca/facts.  Accessed July 5, 2017.
  2. Arthritis Alliance of Canada. Joint action on Arthritis: A framework to improve arthritis prevention and care in Canada. Available at: http://www.arthritisalliance.ca/en/. Accessed July 5, 2017.
  3. The Arthritis Society. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Treatments-physical activity. Available at: http://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed July 5, 2017.
  4. Dieppe PA, Lohmander LS. Pathogenesis and management of pain in osteoarthritis. Lancet 2005; 365: 965-973
  5. Scott DL, Pugner K, Kaarela K, Doyle DV, Woolf A, Holmes J, Hieke K. The links between joint damage and disability in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology 2000; 39:122-132.
  6. Williams PT. Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2013; 45(7): 1292-1297.