Arthritis Facts and Myths

Arthritis Facts

According to the 2007-2008 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), over 4.2 million Canadians (16%) aged 15 and older reported living with arthritis. An estimated 64% of those living with arthritis are women and nearly 3 out of 5 are younger than 65 years of age. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of physical disability (pain, activity limitation) among Canadians. Arthritis-related pain and disability affect many aspects of life including daily activities, leisure, labour force participation, and social activities. The economic burden of arthritis in Canada was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2000 (Economic Burden of Illness in Canada, 2000).

Common Myths About Arthritis

"Arthritis is an old person's disease"

Although the risk for arthritis increases with age, nearly 3 out of 5 with arthritis are younger than age 65. People of all ages are affected, including children and teens. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses of childhood.

"Arthritis is just a normal part of aging"

If this were true, the majority of seniors and no children would have arthritis. In reality, 57% of seniors (> 65 years) don't have arthritis. In addition, two thirds of individuals with arthritis are under the age of 65 and arthritis affects children. Furthermore, some forms of arthritis (e.g. OA and gout) can be prevented.

"Arthritis isn't a serious condition; it's just minor aches and pains. It's best to ignore it"

Most of the joint damage associated with inflammatory arthritis occurs within the first few years after its onset; early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to minimizing its effects.

"There is nothing that can be done for arthritis. You just have to learn to live with it"

While there is currently no cure for arthritis, a person can do many things to relieve the pain, reduce disability and help maintain their ability to do the things that they enjoy. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment strategies can help reduce the disability and quality of life impacts associated with many types of arthritis. Physical activity, healthy weight, self-management education, rehabilitative interventions, medication, and in severe cases, surgery, can make a difference.

"Joints with arthritis should be rested"

The assumption that an inflamed or painful joint requires rest is a common misunderstanding. Too little exercise can cause muscle weakness, pain and stiffness. People with arthritis should undertake some form of physical activity (as recommended by a physician or a physiotherapist/occupational therapist) such as:

  • mobility exercises (e.g., stretching) to improve or maintain the joint's range of motion and flexibility;
  • strength exercises, such as weight-bearing activities to build muscle strength, provide stability to the joint, and improve function; and
  • aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling, to improve cardiovascular fitness.
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