Myths and Misconceptions

Rattle Ya Bones Day – 31 October 2023

Traditionally October 31 has been all about Halloween. Dressing up, trick-or-treating, and having fun! Until now! 

We want October 31 to also be known as Rattle Ya Bones Day. 

That’s because 7 million Australian lives are impacted by muscle, bone, and joint conditions like arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, lupus and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions. And many tell us they feel invisible. 

You can help us raise awareness of these conditions, have some fun and make these invisible conditions visible. 

These common myths add to the confusion and misunderstandings that surround many of these conditions.

Arthritis is just one condition.

Fact: Arthritis is a general term that refers to more than 150 different conditions that can affect the muscles, bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bursae in your body. The more accurate term for these conditions is ‘musculoskeletal conditions’. Common musculoskeletal conditions include osteoarthritisback painrheumatoid arthritisfibromyalgiaosteoporosisgoutpolymyalgia rheumaticalupus and ankylosing spondylitis.

Cracking knuckles causes arthritis.

Fact: It may be really annoying to others, but cracking your knuckles won’t give you arthritis. Watch this Dr Karl TikTok to find out what’s happening inside your knuckles when you crack them.

Gout is caused by too much red wine and rich food.

Fact: Gout has always gotten a bad rap. It’s long been associated with kings, lavish living and overindulgence in food and alcohol. We now know this isn’t the case. It’s a complex, very painful condition that affects many Australians, who deal with stigma based on an out-of-date stereotype. Women get gout too, as do people who don’t drink or eat meat.

Poor posture is bad for your back.

Fact: Although we hear this everywhere, the evidence just doesn’t support it. The best posture for you is a comfortable, relaxed posture when you’re sitting or standing. And varying that posture from time to time is also important.

Weather has no effect on joint pain.

Fact: This one’s unclear, despite years of research. Although people have long reported that changes in the weather, especially the onset of cold, wet weather, affected their pain levels, this has often been dismissed as an old wives’ tale. Several studies now show that some people may be more sensitive to changes in weather and barometric pressure and, as a result, see an increase in their aches and pains. But other studies don’t find a connection. So more research is needed.

Everyone gets osteoarthritis as they grow older.

Fact: While osteoarthritis does affect older people and becomes more common as people age, it’s not an inevitable part of ageing. And it’s not the result of a lifetime of ‘wear and tear’ on joints. It’s a much more complex story. The problem with this myth is that it can cause people to assume nothing can be done when in fact, there are things you can do to manage risk factors, such as being overweight. Or to prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis by actively managing it through self-care, lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare team.

It’s just arthritis. It’s not a serious health problem.

Fact: Actually, it can be. Arthritis isn’t one condition but a term for more than 150 musculoskeletal conditions. They’re all different and can affect people in different ways. Some people can be seriously affected by their condition, with considerable pain, fatigue and disability affecting a person’s day-to-day functioning, ability to work, study, be active and socialise. These conditions can also have a significant impact of mental health.

Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions only affect the elderly.

Fact: Most people with a musculoskeletal condition such as back paingout or arthritis are of working age. And did you know that kids get arthritis too?  These conditions can affect anyone of all ages and walks of life.

If there’s no visible joint damage, it can’t be that bad….

Fact: Treatments for musculoskeletal conditions have come a long way, so we don’t often see obvious signs of arthritis, such as joint deformities. That’s why these conditions are invisible. However, they still cause significant pain, fatigue and disability. It can also impact family, work, social life, finances etc. Check out our report Making the invisible visible to find out more.

My parents have arthritis, so I’ll get it too.

Fact: Just because your parents had a musculoskeletal condition doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that you’ll develop it too. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing many of these conditions. This includes quitting smokingexercising regularly, eating a healthy, well balanced dietmanaging your weight, and talking with your doctor if you notice any unusual pain, swelling or stiffness in your muscles or joints that doesn’t go away.

When you’re in pain, you shouldn’t exercise; you should rest instead.

Fact: Some people worry that exercising when their joints are painful or swollen will make things worse. However exercise is a natural pain reliever and can actually help you manage your pain more effectively. This doesn’t mean running a marathon if you’re joints are swollen and you’re in a lot of pain. But simple, gentle exercises loosen your muscles and joints so you can keep moving. In fact, not moving and prolonged rest can make things worse. The important thing is to listen to your body and seek advice from a qualified health professional if you need help.

Eating fruit and vegies from the nightshades group is bad for arthritis.

Fact: This is a longstanding myth, and the evidence doesn’t support it. Foods in the nightshades group includes tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. They’re delicious and provide lots of wonderful nutrients. Eating a healthy, well balanced diet, with a variety of foods and colours is the best thing you can do to manage your condition and weight.

Wearing copper bracelets will help ease my pain.

Fact: There’s no evidence that copper bracelets provide any clinical benefit for people living with musculoskeletal conditions.

I need to have an x-ray so we can see what’s causing my back pain.

Fact: Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans aren’t useful or recommended in most cases of back pain. Scans may seem like a reassuring thing to do so we can rule out anything scary. But unnecessary tests can be expensive, and some involve exposure to radiation that should be avoided unless absolutely essential. A thorough examination by your doctor will decide whether more investigations are appropriate or helpful in developing a treatment plan that’s right for you.
It‘s also important to know that many investigations show ‘changes’ to your spine that are likely to represent the normal passage of time, not damage to your spine.

I’ll eventually need to have my joints replaced because of my arthritis.

Fact: Most people with a musculoskeletal condition won’t need to have surgery or a joint replaced. Surgery is always the last option when all other treatments have failed to relieve joint pain and function.

musculoskeletal health australia

Musculoskeletal Health Australia (or MHA) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

Useful Links

Copyright by Musculoskeletal Health Australia 2024. All rights reserved

ABN: 26 811 336 442ACN: 607 996 921