To mark National Arthritis Week, HuffPost UK Lifestyle wanted to find out some of the most common misconceptions about a health issue that affects 10 million people across the UK, including 15,000 children.
According to Arthritis Research UK, nearly a quarter of the population of Great Britain admit they have a poor understanding of the condition, while many who claim to have a good or average understanding of it believe common arthritis myths.
Rheumatism and gout being treated by mesmerism
An old man in night-clothes holding up a box of "Uricure" pills as an advertisement for their efficacy against rheumatic diseases. Coloured lithograph by L. Cappiello, ca. 1910.
Gout, represented as a demon
A swollen and inflamed foot; gout is represented as an attacking demon. Coloured etching, 1835
Gout, represented as a demon
A self-indulgent man afflicted with gout: the pain is represented by a demon burning his foot. Coloured lithograph by G. Cruikshank, 1818, after Captain Hehl.
'Blessed laxative', 1601-1700, Italy
The inscription tells us much about the contents of the jar. Benedicta lar is a shortened version of Benedicta Laxativa – “the Blessed Laxative”. This preparation was so called to avoid confusion with similar but less valuable preparations. Made from a mixture of crushed seeds, plants, sugar and honey, the laxative was used to loosen and purge phlegm from the body. It was believed an excessive amount of cold phlegm, one of the four humours, caused trouble with the joints, such as arthritis and gout. Unknown maker, Italy, 1601-1700
Oil of Earthworms, 1731 - 1770
The inscription on the jar is in Latin and translates as “Oil of Earthworms”. The preparation for this treatment was as follows: take ½ lb (0.2 kg) of earth-worms, 2 lb (0.9 kg) of olive oil and 2 oz (57g) of wine and boil together until the wine has evaporated. Store for later use. Unfortunately, the recipe does not state if the worms were to be alive or dead. According to the pharmacists of the day, oil of earthworm was a pain reliever, especially for aching joints, and was also recommended for arthritis, rickets and cramp. The oil was probably rubbed on to the skin. However, one writer gives a warning saying “But they who trust much to it…will be disappointed”. The religious figure at the bottom is probably St Ignatius of Loyola (1491- 1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, whose members are known as Jesuits. The letters IHS are the first three letters from the Greek name for Jesus. Unknown maker, Italy, 1731-1770
Kimball's anti-rheumatic ring, 1900s
Card advertising Kimball's Anti-Rheumatic Ring. 'A Speedy and Permanent Cure for: Rheumatism, Neuralgia, Gout, Sciatica, Lumbago etc'. 1900s
Finidol advertisement, 1920
A man representing the remedy Finidol rescues another man from the clutches of an octopus whose tentacles represent rheumatic and arthritic diseases. Colour lithograph after René Vincent.
Advertisements from The Chemist and Drugist 1880
Clarke’s Blood Mixture
Clarke’s Blood Mixture was advertised as a treatment for a number of skin and blood diseases, including gout, rheumatism, scrofula, eczema and scurvy. In 1909, the British Medical Association estimated the cost of its ingredients was the equivalent of half a penny (at today’s prices) compared to the sales cost, which was 14 pence in modern terms. The maker, Lincoln Midland Counties Drug Co, claimed all skin and blood diseases “can only be cured by purifying the blood”. The advert shows a picture of the packaging so customers knew which preparation was the genuine article. The advert claimed that the preparation had stood the test of time for fifty years – the treatment was available in the United Kingdom until 1968, although the original recipe had been altered. maker: Unknown maker Place made: United Kingdom
Baldwin’s Herbal Tonic Mixture advertisement, 1900s
Baldwin's Herbal Tonic Mixture. Nature's general restorer of the system and purifier of the blood. Printed in bold black display type. Bears quotation: "The Lord causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herbs for the use of man" Psalm CIV, 14
Rheumatism patient uses electronic device, 1925
Rheumatism patient uses electrical machine called the Galvanoset which forces the drug through the flesh by electrical means, 1925.
Oil of Foxes, 1700s
Oil of Foxes (Oglio di Volpine) was prepared by gutting a whole fox before simmering it in spring water, sea water, oil and salt until the water evaporated. The cooked fox was then boiled in water infused with herbs, and the water strained and stored for use. Oil of Foxes was thought useful for treating gout and aching joints. It is shown here with three similar oils made from animals. Only Oil of Foxes had universal approval from medical and pharmacy texts. maker: Unknown maker Place made: Veneto, Italy
Peter Jupp, father to three-year-old Rosie who suffers from juvenile idiopathic arthritis, explains that he didn't understand what was happening to his baby daughter.
"Rosie's symptoms rapidly got worse and within a matter of weeks she would begin most mornings crying in what seemed like pain, and refusing to get up from the sofa after she'd had her milk," he said.
"We have had to watch Rosie go through so much and as parents it has been heartbreaking so see her undergo the constant hospital visits and tests to get a diagnosis.
"There needs to be a greater social awareness of the disease. There is currently no cure for the chronic condition but without the pioneering research by Arthritis Research UK my little girl - and many other children like her - would undoubtedly be wheelchair-bound."
Common arthritis myths
• 48% of the population of Great Britain believe or are unsure whether cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis. Research has shown that it may be linked to ligament damage, but it does not cause arthritis
• 1 in 5 people in Great Britain do not believe being overweight makes you more likely to get arthritis, when in fact it is the strongest risk factor involved in the development of osteoarthritis
• 25% believe that if you have neck, back or joint pain you should not exercise. The truth however, is that at the right level exercise can ease stiffness, improve joint movement and strengthen muscles
• Nearly a quarter believed arthritis is inevitable when you get old. In fact you can develop it at any age and many older people do not develop it at all. A combination of risk factors influences the development of arthritis, including genetics and obesity
Alan Silman, medical director at the Arthritis Research UK, said: "It is particularly concerning that three in 10 people in Britain believe that nothing much can be done to treat arthritis and that people affected just have to live with joint pain, and that the same proportion would wait a few weeks before consulting a healthcare professional about pain in their joints.
"Early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference to the prognosis and outcome of inflammatory arthritis.
"There may be many people in the UK living with painful joints and reduced quality of life who have not consulted their GP and are not aware of the many treatments and self-help measures that could drastically relieve their pain."