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Pain

Common myths about arthritis

How well do you know arthritis? Do supplements really help? What about exercise? Is the link between cracking knuckles and arthritis true? Read on to find out.

Myth: If it’s in your genes, you simply cannot manage your risk of getting arthritis.

Rather than guarantee you’ll get arthritis, genetics can only put you at higher risk for certain types of arthritis — rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). And when it comes to RA, some genes affect severity.

While genetic predisposition, hormones, gender and age are all risk factors that cannot be changed, you do have control modifiable risk factors. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese can cause osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand, hip and knee. Excess weight also affects how OA and other types of arthritis progress.
  • Your diet is a key factor in managing your weight. Some diets increase your risk for gout.
  • For many types of arthritis, being physically inactive can affect severity and how the disease progresses
  • OA can develop in an injured joint.
  • If your job requires repeated squatting and bending, it can lead to OA of the knee and hip
  • The progression of RA and SLE may be affected by smoking.
  • Infection can cause RA and other inflammatory types of arthritis.

And here’s a bonus debunk: Cracking your knuckles does not increase your risk or cause arthritis. And unless it causes pain, it isn’t thought to be harmful.

Myth: Diet can help people with gout but not people with inflammatory types of arthritis.

Yes, diet and lifestyle can help control gout. But new research is also showing that:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids can help with some inflammatory types of arthritis like RA, AS and psoriatic arthritis (PA). Flaxseeds, walnuts, canola and olive oil all contain omega 3 fats. Learn more about healthy fats here.
  • Antioxidants can reduce inflammation, protect the joints and may even help prevent arthritis.
  • Lowering your risk of some inflammatory types of arthritis may mean eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables — especially those containing vitamin C.

And when it comes to supplements:

  • Collagen — research is currently being done to determine if taking collagen from other animals can help reduce inflammation, and the pain that comes with it.
  • Glucosamine and chrondroitin — while these are popular with sufferers of knee pain, very little research confirms that they’re actually helpful. They are safe to take but if you have a shellfish allergy, stay away from glucosamine
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in black currant seed oil, evening primrose oil and borage seed oil — some studies show that these help with RA, but others show they don’t. More research is needed.

Myth: Exercise will only make arthritis pain worse.

Actually, exercise can help decrease pain, improve your mood and increase your flexibility — as long as your routine takes your needs and abilities into consideration. Be sure to consult with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.

Exercise will help keep your joints healthy because it can strengthen your cartilage, ligaments and bone. Speaking of cartilage, movement ensures it can take in nutrients and take out waste.

But do note that you should adapt your exercise program to how your joints are doing. If the joint is inflamed, then you may need to avoid more active exercise to rest it. However, you should continue with range of motion exercises. Remember to always follow your health care provider’s instructions.

For more information and support, search “arthritis” in Find Support for organizations in your area.

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