Why We Need to Bust Arthritis Myths

If I were to ask you to draw someone with arthritis the first image that springs to mind may be an older person, or perhaps someone in their 40s or 50s who has started to experience occasional aches and pains in their knees or hands.

But arthritis is not only an older person’s disease. It’s the biggest cause of pain and disability in the UK and anyone at any age can be affected. If you were to draw someone with arthritis, you could draw a toddler, child, teen or adult.

During our National Arthritis Week Arthritis Research UK is aiming to bust five common myths:

1. ‘Arthritis is only an old person’s disease’
2. ‘Arthritis is just aches and pains as you get older’
3. ‘If you have arthritis there’s not much you can do to improve your condition’
4. ‘If you’ve got joint, back or neck pain you should avoid exercise’
5. ‘Arthritis is inevitable – there’s not much you can do about it’

Earlier this week we issued results from nationwide research which showed 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.

10 million people in the UK[1], including over 15,000 children[2], are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, yet over two thirds (68%) of the public are unaware that children under the age of ten can be affected.

Our National Arthritis Week survey also revealed that while the majority (78%) of people in Great Britain consider arthritis a serious condition, nearly half (45%) believe that arthritis simply means “aches and pains when you get old”. In fact, the term ‘arthritis’ is used to describe around two hundred conditions affecting the bones, joints and muscles, some of which can also cause the immune system to attack and seriously damage internal organs.

I find it 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. The same proportion would wait a few weeks before consulting a healthcare professional about pain in their joints.

The truth is that early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference to the prognosis and outcome of inflammatory arthritis. There may be many people in the UK living with painful joints and reduced quality of life who have not consulted their GP and are not aware of the many treatments and self-help measures that could drastically relieve their pain.

For more information about the common arthritis myths, treatments available and Arthritis Research UK’s National Arthritis Week visit http://www.nationalarthritisweek.org.uk.
[1] 10.1 million adults consult their GP with musculoskeletal problems each year, Royal College of General Practitioners Birmingham Research Unit Annual Prevalence Report 2006
[2] Sacks JJ, Helmick CG, Luo YH, iilowite NT, Bowyer S. Prevalence of an annual ambulatory healthcare visits for pediatric arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions in the United States in 2001-2004. Arthritis Rheum 2007; 57(8): 1439-45. Further information http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/data-and-statistics/childhood-arthritis.aspx