Living Well

Arthritis Myths

Monique Serpas, PT, DPT, OCS
Arthritis Myths

5 Arthritis Myths Busted

Woman holding her hand in pain There are many types of arthritic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis to name a few.  The most common type, and the one most people refer to as “arthritis,” is osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis, also known as OA, is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 80% of people older than 75 years old.  50% of adults will develop painful arthritis in the knee.

Though arthritis is a common condition, there are a lot of misconceptions about it.  In my practice as a physical therapist, I spend a fair amount of time helping my patients dispel some of the myths about this condition. Here are a few of the most common myths that need to be busted.

1. Arthritis is a condition that only affects older adults.
Juvenile arthritis affects 300,000 children in the US.  People can develop “traumatic arthritis” after an accident or injury at any age.  Research has found that people who are obese or have certain occupations develop arthritis earlier. Though most of my patients that have arthritis are in their fifties or older, I do see patients with the above mentioned forms as well as other rheumatic diseases that develop early in life.

2. The best way to protect your joint’s cartilage is to rest more.
Research has actually found that being sedentary can cause cartilage to thin and become less resilient, tolerating less impact before damage. Weight bearing exercise helps to maintain bone health. Also, cartilage can maintain its health through weight bearing exercises, which squeezes nutrients through the tissue.

3. Running causes arthritis.
Many people believe “all that pounding on your joints” isn’t good for them.  There is no research that shows running to be a risk factor for developing arthritis. Considering how cartilage gets its nutrition and stays healthy, this may make sense, as running is a weight bearing exercise. Though runners aren’t at increased risk of developing arthritis, research has found an increased risk in soccer players and weight lifters.

4. Arthritis is genetic and there’s not much you can do for it.
Although research has found a genetic component to osteoarthritis, there are also lifestyle factors that can impact a person’s risk for developing the condition.  Smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and poor diet all play a role in increasing risk for developing arthritis.  These are all risk factors that you can control!

5. Exercise will make arthritis worse.
It makes sense that people with arthritis might think this, because exercise can be painful when you have arthritis.  Though it can be painful, exercise is the most effective way to manage arthritis without the side effects of medication.  Arthritis causes muscle wasting, making exercise even more important to maintain strength needed to do everyday tasks.  The key is to learn how to properly exercise in order to have the least amount of pain while reaping the exercise benefits of increased flexibility and strength.  Exercise in fact improves mobility needed for everyday tasks, for example, opening jars, getting out of a chair, or squatting to pick up things from the floor.

Back in Action

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for arthritis, but there are ways to manage the condition to live a full life.  The Back in Action (BIA) therapists are knowledgeable about arthritis and can teach you how to care for your joints. We design and instruct you in a customized exercise program. Our therapists are also trained to relieve your pain through the use of modalities and hands on techniques to improve joint and muscle mobility.

Touro’s Back in Action Center provides comprehensive physical and occupational therapy services to adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients, as well as case management for patients with orthopedic diagnoses, therapeutic wellness and women’s health. We offer aquatic therapy and have a large heated pool available for patients, including a lift chair for those who cannot easily negotiate the stairs to get into the pool. Patients can improve mobility, strength, and function during the healing process through an aquatic exercise program.

For more information, call Back in Action at (504) 897-8157 or email

Serpas-MoniqueMonique Serpas, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist and board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist practicing at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, LA. Monique realizes how difficult it can be to overcome an injury or manage a chronic condition and is focused on helping her clients achieve wellness through a physically active lifestyle. Monique treats orthopaedic, balance, and vestibular disorders using a combination of hands-on manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and education. This enables patients to assist in their own recovery and injury prevention. Monique holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Concordia University Wisconsin (2008) and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Louisiana State University (2004). She is am a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Louisiana Physical Therapy Association (LPTA), and the Orthopaedic and Neurology sections of the APTA.