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Myths of arthritis

Survey finds misconceptions and myths surrounding arthritis - the biggest cause of pain and disability in the UK.
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

8th October 2012 - Arthritis is the biggest cause of pain and disability in the UK but understanding about the disease is poor or inaccurate. A national survey found many people believed it was just part of getting old and nothing could be done about it.

The truth is thousands of children and adolescents are diagnosed with arthritis and there's a lot that can be done to improve symptoms.

Common arthritis symptoms of inflammation, pain and stiffness are usually caused by osteoarthritis, the most common type of the disease, but there are more than 200 types of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Early diagnosis

Arthritis Research UK, which commissioned the survey, is also concerned many people living with joint pain are unaware of the importance of early diagnosis.

Alan Silman, the charity's Medical Director, said in a press release: "Our National Arthritis Week survey reveals that while most people think they have a good understanding of arthritis, for many people this understanding is actually unfounded as they believe common arthritis myths.

"It is particularly concerning that three in 10 people in Great Britain believe that nothing much can be done to treat arthritis and that people affected just have to live with joint pain, and that the same proportion would wait a few weeks before consulting a healthcare professional about pain in their joints.

"Early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference to the prognosis and outcome of inflammatory arthritis."

He believes some people are living with painful joints and a reduced quality of life unnecessarily. Self-help measures, physiotherapy and regular exercise play an important part in relieving the pain and stiffness, and a range of medications can be prescribed, including drugs to reduce inflammation and to relieve pain.


10 million people in the UK, including over 15,000 children, are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, yet over two thirds of the people surveyed are unaware that children under the age of 10 can be affected.

Three-year-old Rosie Jupp from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was recently diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) after her parents noticed that she began to wince in pain when they encouraged her to walk around as normal. She is now taking a drug for her symptoms.

Her father, Peter Jupp, told Arthritis Research UK: "There needs to be a greater social awareness of the disease. There is currently no cure for the chronic condition but without the pioneering research by Arthritis Research UK my little girl - and many other children like her - would undoubtedly be wheelchair-bound."

The National Arthritis Week survey also revealed that 45% of people in Great Britain believe that arthritis simply means ‘aches and pains when you get old’. In fact you can develop it at any age and many older people do not develop it at all.

Other myths

The survey also revealed that:

  • Nearly half (48%) believe or are unsure whether cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis. Research has shown that it may be linked to ligament damage, but it does not cause arthritis.
  • One in five people do not believe being overweight makes you more likely to get arthritis, when in fact it is the strongest risk factor involved in the development of osteoarthritis.
  • 25% believe that if you have neck, back or joint pain you should not exercise. The truth however, is that at the right level exercise can ease stiffness, improve joint movement and strengthen muscles.

The research results were announced to launch the charity’s National Arthritis Week which runs from 8th - 14th October 2012.

Reviewed on October 04, 2012

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