Rheumatoid Arthritis Joint Damage Preventable with Lifestyle Changes?

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It’s difficult to know where to begin after a week of being offline and away from the computer. Writing projects are piled up; I’m still working at about 25 percent of my usual pace. I’ve decided my first couple of blogs will be in response to some faithful, lovely readers who’ve written to me personally with their concerns. It’s as if they said to me, “Something must be done about this.” And I agree. Stick around; the next few days should be interesting.

USA Today claims Rheumatoid Arthritis joint damage preventable

The January 9, 2011 edition of USA Today Weekend presents “The Doctors” was entitled  “Don’t let arthritis slow you down: Adopting a few lifestyle changes can slow, or stop, joint damage.”

rubber meets the road pink wheelTheir key point: “But just as pivotal in the treatment of RA are lifestyle changes you can make to also help reduce pain and slow, or even stop, joint damage.” They go on to describe how exercise, a healthy diet, and a happy marriage “can slow, or stop, joint damage.” Several Rheumatoid Arthritis patients responded negatively to this assertion.

Here is what one reader wrote on their site: “Saying to people that a few lifestyle changes can stop the joint damage of RA is like telling someone with a broken arm that adding fiber to their diet will heal them. Not true and not fair to those of us like me that have to take some very scary drugs to try to keep this horrible disease controlled. Don’t you think if all I needed to do was 20 min of cardio, cut my calories, and take a tai chi class to stop the horrors of this disease I’d do it? Don’t you think that if stopping joint damage and deformity was that easy my doctor would have mentioned it? This article is a classic example of how unaware people are about this disease. By publishing these kinds of articles you down play the seriousness of this disease which does not help those of us that have to live it.” It would be difficult to improve on that.

What’s wrong with the article?

  1. I’m tempted to leave it at this simple old quote: “No, that’s not right. It’s so far off the mark, it’s not even wrong.” Regarding Rheumatoid Arthritis joint damage, the article is so ridiculously off the mark that I hate to even address it. On the other hand, the USA Today article is typical of what most of the general public reads about RA – from our neighbors to our nurses – so it must be addressed.
  2. Perhaps the author confuses Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) joint damage with “arthritis” (osteoarthritis or OA) to some degree. There is absolutely no proof that diet, exercise, or happy marriage “can slow, or stop, joint damage” of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The suffering and damage of RA is in no way the fault of the RA patient. RA patients are actually victims of this brutal disease (yes, I seldom use that word) and the majority of the thousands with whom I’ve had contact are well-balanced, hardworking, and otherwise healthy people who are simply genetically ill-fated.
  3. Certain specific points have been refuted here on the blog. Please refer to the following links: For more discussions on “Rheumatoid Arthritis and Exercise,” click here. For a discussion on Rheumatoid Arthritis and emotions, I really hope you’ll read this post, the links contained therein, and the comments’ page.

Why does it matter?

  1. Such articles perpetuate a viscous cycle of bad information about RA, and represent a main battleground in the battle for Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness – please click here for a list of articles on RA Awareness.
  2. Confusion about what RA actually is like or how it is treated often creates barriers to RA patients getting needed assistance, accommodations, or care.
  3. It matters because RA is a dangerous disease causing severe disability and early death, and requiring powerful medical treatment. People will not begin to be diagnosed and treated earlier as long as RA is so misunderstood and minimized.

What should folks do if they want to see change?

  1. Learn the simple facts of RA. One good source is the printable RA Factsheet located at this link.
  2. Spread the simple facts about RA. One easy way is to use the 7 simple truths on the RA Info Page. The RA Info Button can be posted on any website as a link to that simple factual page.
  3. Politely resist inaccurate or dishonest portrayals of RA as these wonderful people did over the last few days on USA Today’s site. Respectfully disagree and offer facts, whether it’s with a national newspaper or a local primary care doctor.

Tomorrow: Good news I can’t wait to share!

Recommended reading

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 6:00 am and is filed under RA Education, Reality Check. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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