Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis - you probably know that's an old wives' tale. Though it could injure ligaments around the joints and lead to weaker grips, there's no proof every pop puts you one step closer to arthritis - specifically osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) develops when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in your joints breaks down. The bones then begin to rub against one another, causing pain. OA is the most common form of arthritis, but there's no cure, so the more you know, the better.
Here are three more misconceptions about OA:
Myth: Arthritis is a natural part of aging
Yes, it usually appears after age 45. And yes, the older you are, the more wear and tear you have. But not every older adult develops osteoarthritis. Obesity is also a major risk factor - more weight means more stress on lower body joints.
Myth: Meds should be your first line of treatment
Reduce pain and improve joint function - that's the goal of osteoarthritis treatment, and medications (from over-the-counter acetaminophen to prescription pain pills) certainly help. But according to the Arthritis Foundation, simply moving your body is the best medicine for OA, and it's an effective first step. Gentle exercises, such as walking or swimming, help strengthen muscles and bones, increase flexibility and make joints more stable. That'll also help you lose weight, which will further reduce joint strain.
Myth: Supplements cure joint pain
Glucosamine and chondroitin are two that are reputed to battle osteoarthritis, but an analysis of 10 studies showed these supplements don't do much to relieve pain associated with knee and hip OA. Another supplement that probably doesn't work: vitamin D. It has been suggested it can help treat knee OA, but it does not appear to lessen the symptoms or slow its progression.
• The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon, health and wellness expert Jillian Michaels and psychologist Wendy Walsh. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.