Myths and Misconceptions

Rattle Ya’ Bones Day – 31 October 2021

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

Musculoskeletal Australia now wants 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 and misconceptions add to the confusion and misunderstandings that surround many of these conditions.

1. Arthritis is just one condition.


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. Common musculoskeletal conditions include osteoarthritis, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, gout, polymyalgia rheumatica, lupus and ankylosing spondylitis.

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

Actually it can be.

Arthritis isn’t one condition, but a term used for more than 150 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.

3. Cracking knuckles causes arthritis.


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

4. Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions only affect older people.


The majority of people with a musculoskeletal condition such as back pain, gout 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.

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


Treatments for musculoskeletal conditions have come a long way, so we don’t often see obvious outward 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.

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


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 smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well balanced diet, managing 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.

7. Weather has no effect on musculoskeletal conditions.


For years people have reported that changes in the weather, especially the onset of cold, wet weather, affected their pain levels. But this was often dismissed as an old wives’ tale. Several studies are now showing that some people with musculoskeletal conditions may be more sensitive to changes in weather and barometric pressure, and see an increase in their aches and pains. The Arthritis Foundation (USA) explains.

8. When you’re in pain you shouldn’t exercise at all; you should rest instead.


Some people worry that if they exercise when their joint are painful or swollen, they’ll 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 that loosen your muscles and joints so that 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.

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


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 your weight.

10. Wearing copper bracelets will help ease my pain.


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

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


Gout has always gotten a bad rap. It’s long been associated with kings, lavish living and overindulgence of 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.

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


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.

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

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