Updated 17 November 2015

Arthritis myths debunked

If you suffer from arthritis, you’re probably desperate to get it under control. But be careful – many myths abound. We separate fact from fiction.


Arthritis is a major cause of disability and chronic pain. And because there isn’t much available in the way of a cure, it’s enveloped in misconception, myth and, sometimes, ineffective yet costly remedies.

The following facts will help set the record straight and debunk some of the existing misconceptions:

Myth #1: Joint pain is always an indication of arthritis
This simply isn’t true. Other conditions such as tendonitis, gout, bursitis, strains, sprains and other soft-tissue injuries may also cause joint pain.

Myth #2: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis
The cracking of knuckles is a common practice that seems to relieve joint stiffness. Some believe it’s a sign of arthritis or that it may cause the condition, but scientists haven’t found a link between the two.

Myth #3: There’s only one form of arthritis
This is the same as the assumption that there’s only one type of cancer. The truth is that there are more than 100 different forms of arthritis that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet.

Myth #4: Arthritis is synonymous with the usual aches and pains people develop as they grow older
Although this chronic condition is more common in older people, it can start at any age, including childhood. Similarly, not all elderly people will develop arthritis.

Myth #5: Having arthritis is a hopeless situation
While treatments are limited, there’s a lot you can do to manage the pain and discomfort of arthritis. For starters, you can lose any excess weight to help lessen the pressure on your joints. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, experimenting with heat/cold compresses, protecting your joints are all important steps.

REMEMBER: Arthritis doesn’t have to signify the end of an active, productive life. Collaborate with your healthcare team to find out what works best for you.

Read more:

Arthritis and weather

Exercise and arthritis

Tips on coping with arthritis

(Hayden Horner, Health24, January 2014)


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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