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5 Myths About Arthritis What Physical Therapists Want You To Know

5 Myths About Arthritis And What Physical Therapists Want You To Know

by Zachary Vandenberg, DPT1 Comment

Arthritis is very common in the United States. In fact, research studies report that about 18-25% Americans have a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. That is almost 1 in every 4 people. It can be a scary diagnosis that signals painful joints and degeneration. Knowledge is often power and helps people to create a plan to deal with arthritis and related aches and pain.

First, to clarify, this blog will mainly cover osteoarthritis, not rheumatoid arthritis which has an autoimmune component. There is a lot of information out there about arthritis and this blog aims to demystify some of the common misconceptions about arthritis. First, I will introduce the basic criteria for someone to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis as well as explain the stages of arthritis. I will also summarize the most important things that physical therapists want you to know about arthritis and give you some key take aways about living with arthritis.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

This is the most common form of arthritis. Think of this form of arthritis as being caused by over stressing the joint. This leads to progressive breakdown of cartilage which is the smooth surface on the ends of bone that allow a joint to glide.

Stages Of Osteoarthritis

Stage 1 – Minimal/Pre-Arthritis

Slight wear of the joint surfaces, which may or may not be picked up on an X ray. There are changes in the cells of the cartilage, but at this stage patients often have no symptoms.

Stage 2 – Mild

During this stage, changes in the joint can be seen on an X ray including surfaces that have “rough” areas and bone spurs that may be present. Pain and stiffness vary from person to person. Often time, this stage is managed with anti-inflammatory drugs and/or lifestyle changes.

Stage 3 – Moderate

Characterized by narrowing of joint space and increased sign of wear. Swelling in joints may occur and pain can be with activity and/or at rest.

Stage 4 – Severe

Cartilage is significantly worn down and bone spurs may have increased in size. The joint space narrows even more. There is less synovial fluid (natural joint lubrication) at this stage.

Myths About Arthritis

1. Rest Is Best: False

Many people associate arthritis with overuse and feel that they need to stop using their joint and reduce their activity level to preserve their joints. This can actually be detrimental in the long run because the joint will become stiffer and muscles surrounding the joint weaken.

2. Once You Have Arthritis, The Pain Only Gets Worse: False!

Many people have success and reduce their arthritis pain without surgical intervention. While this depends on the case, lower stages of arthritis respond very well to appropriate strength and range of motion exercises.

3. Arthritis Means Bone On Bone: FALSE

This is not necessarily true. Remember that there are stages of arthritis. If your doctor tells you they see some mild degenerative changes or arthritis in a joint on an Xray, do not assume that joint is “bone on bone”.

4. Arthritis Is Only Something To Be Worried About As You Age: FALSE

More than half (60%) of adults with arthritis are of working age (18-64 years). There are many risk factors correlated with developing arthritis including lifestyle and body weight.

The Only Negative With Arthritis Is Pain And Stiffness: False

Often times, people with arthritis pain that goes untreated are overly cautious and limit their activity due to pain or fear of worsening symptoms. Reduction in physical activity increases their risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Living With Arthritis

With the above myths busted, it’s important to note some of the important takeaways that Physical Therapists want you to understand about arthritis, its impact on your life, and treatments options. Arthritis, by definition, does mean that there is inflammation and breakdown within the joint, but when treated, can be much less painful and debilitating. This is particularly true if treated in early stages. Stretching, strength training and getting moderate level cardio exercise are all important when managing arthritis to maintain good mobility and support to your joints. It is always important to stay moving to maintain good health, additionally, choosing the right exercises can help to make sure you get the most benefit without flaring up arthritis pain.

Physical therapists can help to work with you to find the best exercises to maintain strength and mobility without causing undo stress on your joints. It has been shown that physical therapy can help to reduce pain more than anti-inflammatory medication alone. Physical therapists are also very qualified in helping you to determine if exercise alone is enough, or if you may be in a stage where you should consider a consult with an orthopedic specialist.

If you are looking for some extra assistance in managing arthritis or would like to learn more about creating a movement plan that works for your needs, request a free assessment at an Athletico location near you. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

Arthritis in America – CDC.
Brown, Joe, and Carly Eastin. “Physical Therapy versus Glucocorticoid Injection for Osteoarthritis of the Knee.” The Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 59, no. 6, 2020, pp. 985–986.,
Skou ST, Roos EM. Physical therapy for patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis: supervised, active treatment is current best practice. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2019 Sep-Oct;37 Suppl 120(5):112-117. Epub 2019 Oct 15. Erratum in: Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2020 Sep-Oct;38(5):1036. PMID: 31621559
Lawrence, Reva C., et al. “Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Selected Musculoskeletal Disorders in the United States.” Arthritis & Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 778–799.,<778::aid-art4>;2-v.

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1 Comment

  1. Debbie Fausneaucht

    Mike at Norton Ohio Athletics is the best! He helped me so very much in a gentle but effective way!

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