Top 4 myths about arthritis: Baylor College of Medicine expert separates fact from fiction

We’ve all heard about arthritis, but how much do we really know about it and how it affects those who struggle with it on a daily basis?

Dr. Melvyn Harrington, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, addresses some myths about the disease in time for Arthritis Awareness Month.

Myth 1: Arthritis only occurs in older adults.

Dr. Melvyn Harrington
Dr. Melvyn Harrington

Osteoarthritis is only one of several types of arthritis, and it occurs in about 80 percent of people over age 50. However, other types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis, which are both autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation in the joints, can occur in those younger than age 50.

Harrington also notes that because osteoarthritis can be associated with obesity, they are starting to see the symptoms of this disease in patients who are younger than 50 and overweight.

Myth 2: There’s nothing you can do once you’re diagnosed with arthritis.

Arthritis is manageable with medications and weight loss. For those with rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis, there are various prescription medications out there that have proven to be effective in treating the disease.

For those with osteoarthritis, the symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories as well as weight loss. There are also surgical treatment options, such as joint replacements, for those who are not able to manage the disease through other options.

Myth 3: Arthritis is just an achy joint.

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints wears down, which causes pain. When you look at the other medical issues that are associated with inactivity such as diabetes and heart disease, those go hand-in-hand with arthritis.

If you are limiting your activity level because of arthritis, then you are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.

Myth 4: You can’t exercise if you have arthritis because it will cause more pain.

The most important thing is to do something rather than nothing. There are many non-impact loading activities that those with arthritis can take part in to manage their symptoms as well as lose weight.

These include walking, swimming, water aerobics, tai chi and yoga. Listen to your painful joint to know what you can and can’t do and stay as active as you can.

Mark your calendars for the Houston Arthritis Walk

This year, Harrington serves as the Medical Honoree for the Houston Arthritis Walk, in association with the Arthritis Foundation. Join Harrington and the Arthritis Foundation on June 1 at the Quillian Center, 10570 Westpark Drive, for a one- or three-mile walk.

Check out all the details about the walk and join Harrington’s team, the BCM Walkin’ Warriors.

-By Dipali Pathak

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