Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, which causes a combination of pain, swelling and limited mobility. It is very common – more than one is six adults suffers from some form of arthritis and with the increasing aging of the population, those figures are rising.
There are actually more than one hundred different types of arthritis and therefore it is very important that the type of arthritis you have is correctly diagnosed because successful treatment is dependent upon it. Several types have a known cause, despite the majority of types do not. Those with no known cause include all cases of rheumatoid arthritis and the majority of osteoarthritis cases.
Even when the cause is known, it is not known why some people develop arthritis while others with the same risk factors do not. Some people think it's due to the fact that they cracked their knuckles as a kid or that their joints are acting up because of damp weather, however, neither of these myths (or many others) have ever been proved in clinical research studies.
Cracking your knuckles
Although you may cause injury to a joint by over enthusiast knuckle cracking, evidence suggests that doing this has little effect on the health of your joints.
Cold, damp weather
Arthritis sufferers seem to be affected more when the weather is cold and damp, however, this does not mean that weather causes the arthritis, although it does appear to aggravate the symptoms.
Overuse of the joints
Although certain occupations with repetitive manual work and athletes who have had repeated joint injuries may develop degenerative arthritis, there is no rhyme or reason to this theory. If it was due to overuse, then why do marathon runners not appear to be at increased risk?
There are no medications generally recognized as a cause for arthritis, although there may be a few exceptions. Corticosteroids may cause interruption of the blood supply to the hip bones causing death to the bone, which may result in the development of arthritis. Also, water pills may cause gout but not arthritis. There are some other drugs which may cause bone or joint pain, but they will not cause arthritis. However, there is a rare condition called 'drug induced lupus' which may follow after using certain medications and it is thought that arthritis may develop afterwards.
As far as we know, most infections will not cause arthritis. There is a very small fraction of infectious causes and these include: bacteria such as Gonorrhea and Staphylococcus; Lyme's disease; some viruses (including occasional cases of Hep B, Hep C or parvovirus).
Similarly, some vaccinations, including those for Lyme's disease and Rubella are thought to be linked (although very rarely) to the development of arthritis. This connection is unclear though. Fortunately, the majority of people receiving the most common vaccinations never develop arthritis.
For centuries, there have been theories about which foods are the best to eat to prevent / treat arthritis, however, the types of food we eat are not thought to have a role in the development (or not) of arthritis.
There are some exceptions though. Some people notice that eating certain foods or drinking alcohol, triggers gout attacks. There is also a link between obesity and osteoarthritis, so a diet that helps with weight reduction would obviously be helpful.
In some cases, osteoporosis may be caused by not having sufficient calcium or vitamin D intake. Lack of these vital nutrients will cause the bones to become weak and if a fracture occurs, then arthritis may follow.
This can not be seen as a cause, since it does not come inevitably with old age.
Although there may have been cases where people have developed arthritis after going through prolonged periods of stress, there is no comprehensive evidence to suggest that it causes any specific type of arthritis. Stress can make pain feel worse though.
Any prolonged mental or emotional stress will cause illness in your body.
Despite the myth, slouching will not cause arthritis, however, any type of arthritis can affect your posture.
Osteoporosis may cause you to have a stooped post if the vertebrae collapse and arthritis in your spine may follow, however, the stooped posture does not cause the arthritis. Another example of this is ankylosing spondylitis – a condition in which inflammation of joints in the lower spine leads to a rigid spine. Therefore, poor posture can be seen as a result of arthritis, but is not known to cause it.
In conclusion, with so many different types of arthritis and little understanding of their causes, it is understandable because there are so many myths circulating regarding arthritis. For now it's just a case of 'nobody knows' and there is no known cure. Once you have developed arthritis you may adopt a new diet, move to a warmer climate or opt for some risky treatment, however, you may be very disappointed in the results and find that things are just as bad, if not worse, than before.
The same goes as for every other disease of the body – try to keep your mind and body healthy and active by having a healthy lifestyle and healthy, balanced diet. Also make sure you are getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D to keep those bones strong and healthy.