Arthritis is a painful condition that can make activities of daily living difficult, if not impossible. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease, affects 27 million Americans and is caused by wear and tear on a joint.
Misconceptions about arthritis are prevalent, but knowing the facts can help people to better manage the disease, says Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon with offices in Fresh Meadows, and at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
Here are the top myths and facts about arthritis, according to Westrich, director of joint replacement research at the hospital:
1- MYTH: If you have arthritis, you shouldn’t exercise.
FACT: Certain exercises, such as swimming or the stationary bicycle can help relieve stiffness and alleviate pain. Physical therapy or an exercise program to strengthen muscles around the joint can also be very helpful.
2 – MYTH: Arthritis is a disease of the elderly.
FACT: About two-thirds of patients are under 65. In fact, increasing numbers of people in their 40’s and 50’s are feeling the aches and pains of the degenerative bone disease.
3 – MYTH: Cold, wet climates make arthritis worse.
FACT: There is no scientific evidence supporting the theory that a particular climate is better for people with arthritis. If a warm climate helped or prevented arthritis, then people who lived in mild-climate states such as Arizona or Southern California would not have arthritis. Adults all over the country experience arthritis pain. However, inclement weather is associated with barometric pressure changes, and this may affect people with arthritis. It does not make the condition worse per se, but it may cause a change in someone’s level of pain.
4 – MYTH: There’s nothing I can do, so I’ll just have to live with the pain
FACT: People can take measures to alleviate arthritis pain. One strategy is to lose weight if one is carrying around excess pounds. Depending on the weight loss, it can take quite a bit of pressure off an arthritic knee or hip. Another recommendation is to avoid any activity, such as going up and down stairs, which may aggravate an arthritic knee or hip. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication can help. No one needs to live with constant pain. Joint replacement surgery is a tried and true way to eliminate arthritis pain once and for all.
5 – MYTH: Supplements and drinks advertised on TV, in print and online can cure arthritis.
FACT: Many products purport to cure arthritis. Some of them are so bold as to claim they can re-grow cartilage. Impossible. These unproven potions and pills are a waste of money. The only way to eliminate advanced arthritis pain is with joint replacement surgery.
6 – MYTH: Arthroscopic surgery will relieve my arthritis.
FACT: Any doctor who says arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn cartilage or clean out a joint will relieve arthritis pain is doing a huge disservice to a patient. This type of minimally invasive surgery does NOTHING to relieve arthritis pain. Not only is it useless and unnecessary, but some patients are actually worse off because their joint becomes inflamed after surgery.
7 – MYTH: How can you have arthritis? You were fine yesterday, how can you be in so much pain today?
FACT: People who have arthritis can feel fine one day, and experience a flare up the next.
8 – MYTH: Even though I have painful arthritis that limits my activities, I’m only in my 40’s, so I’m too young for joint replacement.
FACT: Newer techniques such as minimally invasive hip and knee replacements, partial knee replacements and improved implant materials have made joint replacement a viable option for younger patients who want to alleviate pain and return to an active lifestyle.
For more information about arthritis, including videos, visit www.westrichmd.com.