What's True About Arthritis?

Misconceptions about arthritis persist. Inaccurate information continues to be spread about arthritis. Unfortunately, misconceptions promote misunderstanding. Seven of the most common misconception include:

  • Arthritis is an old person's disease.
  • Arthritis is induced by a cold, wet climate.
  • Arthritis can be cured.
  • Arthritis is caused by a poor diet.
  • Arthritis consists of only minor aches and pains.
  • You look fine, so you must be fine.
  • Arthritis is a hopeless disease; you're doomed.

People with arthritis need facts and valid information, not myths and misconceptions. Let's consider the reality.

Woman with eyes closed rubbing one eye
Bruce Laurance / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

Arthritis Is an Old Person's Disease

Fact: Anyone can have arthritis.

The most common misconception about arthritis is that it's a disease only of old people. Actually, arthritis can affect anyone at any age, including children, young adults, and people of middle age.

Arthritis is not age or gender specific. While there are over 100 types of arthritis and related rheumatic conditions, certain conditions are more prevalent in particular groups.

Arthritis Is Induced by a Cold, Wet Climate

Fact: Climate itself is neither the cause, nor the cure.

It has long been theorized that arthritis is caused by a cold, wet climate. Moving to a warm, dry climate has been regarded by some as the cure. Logically, one can infer that if a warm climate cured arthritis, then no one in Southern California or other warm regions would have arthritis. Bone rubbing on bone after cartilage has worn away causes pain in any climate. However:

  • Warmth can be soothing.
  • People without arthritis often feel better in warm climates, too.

Warmth may relieve symptoms of arthritis, as does soaking in a hot tub or taking a hot shower.

Arthritis Can Be Cured

Fact: There has been no scientific evidence that a cure for arthritis exists at this time.

To date, there is no known cure for most forms of the disease. Much has been discovered in terms of better treatment options and slowing down disease progression, but nothing yet has been found to successfully halt the disease. Since there are so many different types of arthritis, the prognosis varies as well.

Since most types of arthritis are chronic conditions and destined to be a lifelong process, the importance of gaining knowledge and understanding of your own health condition cannot be overstated. There is much to be learned about arthritis symptoms, medications, and other treatment options, pain relief techniques, and how to cope and live well with arthritis.

Arthritis Is Caused by a Poor Diet

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that specific foods prevent or cause arthritis.

There has been an abundance of speculation about the importance of diet with regard to arthritis. It is certain that a nutritious, well-balanced diet and ideal weight maintenance improves overall health and wellness for everyone. There are a few examples where there is a definite diet connection (e.g., gout).

No irrefutable scientific evidence yet proves that specific foods prevent or cause most forms of arthritis. A healthy diet does not prevent arthritis. Unless a person is found to have a particular food allergy which causes their arthritis to flare, there is no proven direct link between a particular food source and arthritis.

Arthritis Consists of Only Minor Aches and Pains

Fact: Arthritis consists of much more than just minor aches and pains.

It is another common misconception that arthritis is simply associated with minor aches and pains. Television commercials, which claim that a couple of aspirin or another over-the-counter pain reliever take away the minor aches and pains of arthritis, tend to mislead the public.

Such advertising, along with a general lack of knowledge about the disease, expands unawareness of complex and severe forms of arthritis which require more aggressive forms of treatment. Living with chronic pain should not be trivialized.

The reality of arthritis includes the following:

You Look Fine, You Must Be Fine

Fact: There is variation in the duration and severity of the symptoms of arthritis.

Since arthritis is a disease characterized by periods of symptom variability, with possible flares and remission, it is often difficult for family and friends of an arthritic person to comprehend why they feel so much better or so much worse on any particular day. The inconsistency of arthritis can even lead some people to believe the disease is "all in your head" or that you are faking.

In fact, arthritis is characterized by a mix of good days and bad days. Some days, joint pain and fatigue are more exacerbated. A balance between rest and activity may be necessary to best manage living with arthritis.

Arthritis Is a Hopeless Disease, You're Doomed

Fact: There is much a person with arthritis can do. Good quality of life is still possible.

The limitations that arthritis imposes on an individual can cause people closest to them to become overprotective. Sometimes, people do too much to try and help the person with arthritis. The disease can interfere with physical ability, but certainly, the one with arthritis should not be viewed as totally dependent or invalid. A certain amount of help and dependence is likely. It must be remembered, though, that it is best to maintain as much independence as possible for both physical and emotional reasons.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. Arthritis Foundation. 4 tips for managing chronic pain.

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer covering arthritis and chronic illness, who herself has been diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.