Let’s explore the wonderful world of myths and misconceptions about ‘arthritis.’
1. Arthritis is for old people.
2. Arthritis is just wear-and-tear.
3. All arthritis is the same.
I thought it best to address the top three here together since they’re so interrelated.
Often, people think of osteoarthritis (degenerative/wear-and-tear arthritis) or osteoporosis (porous bone/low-bone-density) when they hear ‘arthritis.’ This is a misconception.
‘Arthritis’ is actually an umbrella term for illnesses in which ‘arthritis’ or inflammation/stiffness in joints is a symptom. What diseases fall under the arthritis umbrella? Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Juvenile Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Bursitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Gout, Fibromyalgia, Psoriatic Arthritis, Vasculitis, and more.
These types of arthritis can hit anyone, from infants to the super-old.
4. Arthritis is easy to diagnose.
Wear-and-tear arthritis can be easy to diagnose, but many other types – Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Juvenile Arthritis, etc – are not. There is no one test that fully confirms which type of arthritis a person has. Some tests may indicate whether or not you’re heading in the right direction, such as a positive ANA may indicate Lupus, but isn’t a for-sure thing.
These diagnoses are made by exclusion and symptoms.
5. Yoga cures arthritis.
While physical activity can be very helpful for types of arthritis, it isn’t always the easiest thing to undertake. I have actually been banned by my rheumatologist from doing yoga before due to how detrimental it would’ve been on my health at the time.
We patients, in conjunction with our doctors, know what is best for our bodies. Please don’t recommend types of physical activity to patients unless we ask for your input.
6. Rum-soaked raisins cure arthritis.
There are NO CURES for ANY TYPE of arthritis. Just no.
Again, we patients, in conjunction with our doctors, know what is best for our bodies. Please don’t recommend ‘cures’ to patients. EVER.
7. Arthritis is a minor inconvenience.
Arthritis causes excruciating pain that cannot be expressed with words. Aleve doesn’t do it to kill the pain – oftentimes even opiates only minimize the pain enough for people to be kinda functional.
On a good day, my pain sits on a 3-4 on the pain scale. On a bad day, I jump up to 7-9… mostly because I am reserving my 10 for whatever will wind up being my stubborn butt’s first hospital stay. When I hit those bad days – and that is at least half of the week – I cannot focus on anything. If I absolutely have to accomplish things, they’re done with less attention and care than they would be on a better day.
8. Treatments halt damage and pain.
Even people in remission (no active signs of their disease – this is not the same thing as a cure) still have pain from their illnesses. Treatments or no treatments, there is still pain.
9. Damage only happens when there’s pain.
Pain isn’t an indicator of damage. Damage can happen whether or not pain is an issue. This is why it’s so important to be on medications to treat arthritis types, no matter your pain levels, unless your care team believes you are in remission.
10. It’s not like arthritis ever killed anyone.
I mean, the reality is that the medications we take have side effects – not all of which have truly been studied yet – and, thus, effects ripple through various parts of our lives. The disease itself causes major issues that, again, aren’t fully understood by healthcare providers yet.
We live in pain every single day in a society that doesn’t get us, leading to depression and higher rates of suicide in the general chronic illness community, too. This is important to remember as we look to revamping mental health care in the United States (I hope).
These are just my top 10. What would YOU add?