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5 Facts and Fictions About Osteoarthritis

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WebMD Feature

The earth is flat, eggs are bad for you, and arthritis is a natural part of aging. Each of these once long-held beliefs are myths, but repeat one often enough and just about any myth can start to sound like fact.

With more than 100 types of arthritis, it's easy to see how a little misinformation has cropped up over the years. But you don't have to rely on hearsay. Get the facts here about the most common arthritis fictions.

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Arthritis Myth or Fact: Arthritis is just part of aging.

Myth. Getting older means living with joint pain.

Fact. Arthritis isn't a natural part of aging, and older people aren't the only ones who get arthritis. As a matter of fact, more than half of the 50 million people living with arthritis in the United States are under age 65, says Patience H. White, MD, vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation. Even children get arthritis.

It is true that your chances of getting osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 27 million Americans -- increase with age. One reason is simply that older joints have had more wear and tear. Although there's nothing we can do about growing older, there is a lot we can do about other OA risk factors.

Arthritis Myth or Fact: You can't prevent osteoarthritis.

Myth. Osteoarthritis is genetic: If one of your parents has it, chances are good that you will, too.

Fact. Aside from rheumatoid arthritis, which raises the risk for developing OA, you can minimize the risk of of developing OA with lifestyle changes:

  • Obesity plays a huge role in raising your risks of developing osteoarthritis, especially for osteoarthritis of the knee. That's because the heavier you are, the more stress you put on your joints. For each 1-pound increase in weight, the force across the knee joint increases by 2 to 3 pounds. To lower your chances of getting OA, lose weight if you're overweight, and then maintain a healthy weight when you get there.
  • Overuse or injury also raises your risk of developing OA. According to the Arthritis Foundation, athletes and people whose jobs require repetitive motion have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis because of joint stress and injury. High-intensity sports such as running, which directly impact joints, seem to increase the risk of osteoarthritis. The keys to prevention? Avoid injuries, and modify movements so your joints are stressed less. For high-impact sports, gradually increase your training schedule and avoid high-impact activities if your joints are injured.
  • Muscle weakness is another risk factor for OA. In particular, some studies show that weakness of the muscles surrounding the knee (quadriceps) can raise your risks of injury and knee osteoarthritis.

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