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September 6, 2012
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Arthritis: What’s truth and what’s myth?

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.

Depression has been called the common cold of mental illness, probably because it affects so many people: Statistics show about 20 million Americans have it. Even so, many misconceptions persist. Some people think that it’s just a bout of the blues, that it’s a sign of weakness and that you can simply snap out of it. Here are three things you may not know:Working long hours may raise your risk. In a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers followed more than 2,000 middle-aged government workers for six years; those who logged 11-hour or longer days were twice as likely to have depression. Other things could increase your risk: a family history of depression, stressful events or having a serious illness. In some cases, a depressive episode may occur without an obvious trigger.Men and women experience depression differently. Women tend to display the more classic symptoms — they’re sad, or they’re oversleeping and overeating. Men tend to be angry, irritable and sometimes abusive; they also turn more often to drugs and alcohol. Women are likelier to seek treatment for depression; men try to “tough it out.”Shock therapy is still in use. It’s called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) now, but it’s still effective at providing relief for severe depression when no other treatment works. People may be leery about ECT, in which electrical currents are passed through the brain, but you don’t consciously feel the impulses, and side effects, including confusion and memory loss, are usually temporary.— The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check for local listings.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Sep 6, 2012 12:22PM Published Sep 6, 2012 12:21PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.