March 13, 2012 11:55 ET

The Myths of Osteoarthritis Debunked

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 13, 2012) - The many myths surrounding arthritis are hurting Canadians and the faster that people get the real facts, the better they will be in avoiding arthritis or managing it in order to have a better quality of life, says the former president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association.

The most popular myth is that osteoarthritis (OA), commonly known as degenerative arthritis is a normal part of the aging process. "It doesn't have to be a part of aging. Absolutely not." says Dr. Cy Frank, who is also an orthopaedic surgeon and professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. "It's potentially a preventable disease and people should be doing everything in their power to avoid it if they can."

Many people think osteoarthritis is not such a terrible thing to have, and that as you get older, you naturally succumb to it, but that's wrong, he says. "People [without arthritis] do not want to know how bad it can be. It's not just aches and pains, it very often can become severe, mind-numbingly painful and you don't ever want to feel that."

OA is arthritis (joint inflammation) and is characterized by the loss of cartilage in a joint. In hips or knees, severe OA usually means joint replacement surgery. But preventing some osteoarthritis is primarily a lifestyle choice, says Dr. Frank, former president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association. He says that evidence suggests that a healthy diet, healthy bodyweight and an active, mobile lifestyle with 'joint friendly exercises' as the best bets against osteoarthritis in old age.

People also mistakenly believe that if you have arthritis you can't exercise, but instead moderate, appropriate activities like deep-water exercises or biking are something people with osteoarthritis need to engage in regularly. Obesity compounds osteoarthritis by putting excess loads on the joints and most joint replacement patients are overweight or obese for a variety of reasons, not just because they have OA, says Dr. Frank.

Perhaps the most damaging myth is that you just have to "suck up" the pain associated with OA. Dr. Frank says people should not wait until they are in unbearable pain before considering joint replacement; and that seeking early treatment and investigating all options is the wise thing to do when arthritis strikes.

Of the 4.2 million Canadians over the age of 18 with some form of arthritis, 63 percent were overweight or obese. Nearly two thirds of those with arthritis were women. Arthritis was the second and third most common chronic condition reported by women and men, respectively.

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About MobilizeCanada

Launched in 2011, MobilizeCanada is the public facing initiative of the Canadian Orthopaedic Care Strategy Group. This national education and communications program is designed to inform the forty-five age plus public about Canada's mobility crisis, offer practical solutions to maintain mobility and offer options and thinking around change and improvement. The vision is for Canadians to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of aging by minimizing the loss of mobility or functional disability that in turn improves individual and societal well-being and maximizes health system effectiveness and efficiency. A key feature is website which is being developed to act as a communications dissemination hub on mobility information.





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