Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths
Most evenings as the sun sets, I love to go for a brisk stroll on a nearby sandy beach...who wouldn’t!? I feel especially privileged because 11 years ago I was crippled with multiple sclerosis (MS) and joint inflammation. People who saw me back then can’t understand how someone who was ‘disabled’ can now walk again.
That’s because they have been misled by many of the following myths and misconceptions about joint and muscular conditions especially rheumatoid arthritis and ‘regular arthritis’ or osteoarthritis.
Myth 1: Rheumatoid arthritis is just like ‘regular arthritis’
Fact: Rheumatoid arthritis is not ‘regular arthritis’. What we think of as “regular arthritis” is usually osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by injury or normal wear-and-tear on aging joints. It is the most common joint disease in middle age to older people.
By contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, systematic, progressive autoimmune disorder where the body makes antibodies which attack its own tissues. These self-attacks mostly affect the joints, although they can also affect other body parts either sporadically or continually. One can in fact have both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis simultaneously.
This means that rheumatoid arthritis is NOT JUST a joint disorder. It can also impact internal organs. The inflammation in the joints can, for example, “spill over” to blood vessels (causing premature coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis); it can spread into the bones (causing osteoporosis), and it can even lead to an increased risk of lymphoma.
Hence the importance of early, safe systematic treatment addressing root causes in the whole body not just its ‘parts’.
Myth 2: Only old people get rheumatoid arthritis
Fact: Most people who develop rheumatoid arthritis are aged between 30 and 55.
Paul Kremer, MD, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at Albany Medical College in New York says that "This is the peak age group, but anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis, even teenagers." At the same time, "Older folks may have more severe rheumatoid arthritis, because it's progressive and they've been living with it longer."
Myth 3: Most people with rheumatoid arthritis end up in a wheelchair or nursing home
Fact: Rheumatoid arthritis effects people differently, but most continue to live independently. When appropriate treatment is started immediately after diagnosis, people can perform most of their normal activities with only minor changes
Thus, the diagnosis doesn't have to mean a lifetime of disability.
Myth 4: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms aren't treatable
Fact: Many conventional and natural treatments have been developed to control the pain, inflammation and joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Conventional treatments focus on steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. Aspirin, Ibuprofen and COX-2 inhibitors e.g. Vioxx, Celebrex, Bextra. Anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drugs are also frequently used. These medications affect the body's natural immune defences by blocking proteins that lead to swelling, inflammation, and associated joint pain.
While these may help short term, they only suppress symptoms and do not address root causes like inflammation. Indeed, they can be very toxic and harmful longer term.
COX-2 inhibitors for example, come with negative cardiovascular side effects. While NSAIDs long term side effects include possible kidney failure, fluid retention, potential liver failure, ulcers and prolonged bleeding.
Moreover, shutting down your immune system even for a short while is hardly a good idea! A wiser route is to consider lifestyle and especially dietary changes which address the inflammatory and immune root causes.
Indeed, as Joanna Maggs our Nutritionist says: “The prime cause of most forms of arthritis is usually nutritional."
For example, excess free radicals, glycation, methylation and inflammation...all which are impacted by nutrition, all contribute to arthritis symptoms. Lack of essential fatty acids, fish oils, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals also increase the risk of infection and reduces your body’s ability to repair damage. Obesity also adds undue stress and pressure to weight-bearing joints.”
Of particular benefit in addressing arthritic causes are our natural supplements such as:
- Omega 3 QH Premium
- Total Balance range
For more information on an anti-inflammatory lifestyle please click here.
Myth 5: Painful, stiff joints from rheumatoid arthritis require rest most of the day
Fact: On the contrary; most people with rheumatoid arthritis should be moving and exercising more, not less.
When joints are painful and stiff, it's natural to want to avoid movement. But immobility can be counterproductive. The muscles around a joint contribute a large part of the joint's strength and stability. All muscles need regular activity and strengthening to stay healthy - use it or lose it.
Everyone with rheumatoid arthritis can perform some kind of exercise like:
- Stretching exercises which require minimal exertion and help keep joints flexible.
- Low-impact aerobic exercise to improve joint health, as well as overall mental and physical health.
- Light strength training to help make your joints more stable
- Yoga to build flexibility and strength, improve concentration, relieve stress and increase energy.
- High-impact exercise should be avoided.
By addressing the dietary, inflammatory and immune root causes of rheumatoid arthritis people can enjoy a good quality of life. Indeed, I seem to have started a trend on my local beach....many times I now have walking companions who exercise “to oil their painful joints”!
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