About Arthritis

Imagine living with pain so intense that you can barely get out of bed in the morning. What if buttoning your shirt or walking to your front door hurts so much that these daily tasks are almost impossible?

Arthritis affects 4.6 million Canadians and is the leading cause of chronic pain and physical disability in Canada. Arthritis is vastly misunderstood, and many perceive it as an “older person’s disease.” In fact, arthritis affects people of all ages. More than 60% of Canadians with arthritis are under age 65. Two-thirds of those affected with arthritis are women. And, to many people’s surprise, one in 1,000 children in Canada has arthritis.

Within a generation (30 years) the number of Canadians living with arthritis is expected to more than double due to an aging population, longevity and obesity.

Among the top three chronic diseases in Canada, arthritis is actually a group of more than 100 different types. The most common type is called osteoarthritis, causing more than 80% of hip and knee joint replacement surgeries. Inflammatory forms of the disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, can cause the destruction of joints and soft tissues around the joints causing pain, disability, significant lost quality of life, and even an early death. To learn more about the various types of arthritis visit jointhealth.org

Arthritis – Spotlights:

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) has created spotlight profiles of some of the more than 100 types of arthritis. If you don’t see the type of arthritis you’re looking for, please contact us, and we’ll try to add a spotlight on the type of arthritis you want to know more about.

Check back often as we add more spotlights on different types of arthritis.

Arthritis Myths

“I’m too young to have arthritis.”
“It’s just a pain I have once in a while in my knee.”
“I should stay home and rest if I have arthritis.”

Canada’s leading National Arthritis Awareness Program (NAAP) educates, informs, and provides insight to bust these myths.

Let’s set the record straight about Arthritis! Visit arthritisbroadcastnetwork.org.

Click to dispel each Myth:

Myth 1 “Arthritis is a disease of the elderly.”

Did you know arthritis is the leading cause of disability for people over the age of 15? Age is just a number and arthritis can affect anyone, at any age. Three out of five Canadians with arthritis are under age 65. Arthritis is also among the most common chronic diseases in children, affecting one in 1,000 children.

Myth 2 “Arthritis is a single disease.”

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. It can affect a single joint, multiple joints, or it can be an autoimmune disease that attacks the whole body. Different types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout and ankylosing spondylitis.

Myth 3 “Arthritis is just aches and pains.”

Arthritis is a leading cause of pain, physical disability and healthcare utilization in Canada. It can make daily activities—getting dressed, opening a door or even walking up stairs—extremely difficult or impossible. Inflammatory forms of the disease can cause the destruction of joints and soft tissues around the joints causing pain, disability, lost quality of life, and in severe cases, early death.

Myth 4 “Arthritis isn’t a big deal.”

Arthritis is among the top three chronic diseases in Canada and can be devastating, disabling and fatal. As Canada’s most common cause of disability, arthritis disables two to three times more workers than all other chronic conditions. More than a quarter of Canadians with arthritis aged between 25 and 44 are not in the labour force because of their disease. Arthritis is estimated to cost the Canadian economy more than $33 billion annually. So arthritis should never be dismissed as unimportant. Early detection can set the course for treatment and actions that can greatly reduce the effects of arthritis and improve quality of life.

Myth 5 “Arthritis research receives the right amount of funding compared to how many people are affected by it.”

Although arthritis is one of the most common, debilitating and costly chronic diseases in Canada, arthritis research receives much less funding than many other chronic diseases. According to the Joint Action on Arthritis: A Framework to Improve Arthritis Prevention and Care in Canada, the total economic burden of OA and RA alone in Canada, including direct health care costs and indirect productivity losses to the economy, will grow from $33.2 billion in 2012 to $68 billion in 2040.¹ The 2011 Canadian Arthritis Funding Landscape Review found that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research invested only $4.30 per person with arthritis.² In comparison,

  • Diabetes research received three times as much or about $12.83 per person with diabetes;
  • Cancer research received thirty-two times as much funding or about $138.60 per person with cancer;
  • HIV-AIDS research received 184 times as much funding³ or about $841.51 per person with a positive HIV-AIDS test.⁴

The advances made through appropriate levels of funding for diabetes, cancer and HIV-AIDs has changed the lives of people living with those diseases. People with arthritis deserve the same chance at leading full lives again, and increases in funding for arthritis research and care can do just that. To learn more about arthritis research that is changing and saving lives, visit the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada at http://www.arthritisresearch.ca

¹ Arthritis Alliance of Canada. Joint Action on Arthritis: A Framework to Improve Arthritis Protection and Care in Canada. Fall, 2012. URL: http://www.arthritisalliance.ca/docs/media/201209171000_framework_EN_588.pdf
Accessed August 10, 2013

² Arthritis Alliance of Canada. The Canadian Arthritis Funding Landscape Review. 2011b URL: http://www.arthritisalliance.ca/activities_landscape_review.php
Accessed August 19, 2013.

³ CBC News/Health. Ottawa’s HIV/AIDS funding disappoints some. July 20, 2010. URL: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2010/07/20/hiv-funding-vienna-declaration.html
Accessed August 19, 2013

⁴ AIDS Committee of Toronto. HIV and AIDS Statistics – Canada. January 2013. URL: http://www.actoronto.org/home.nsf/pages/hivaidsstatscan
Accessed August 21, 2013

Myth 6 “Exercise is bad for arthritis.”

Exercise is a key management strategy for arthritis as it protects joints by strengthening the muscles and tissues around them. Physical activity actually ‘feeds’ the joints, because cartilage depends on joint movement to absorb nutrients and remove waste. Weight management is also critical. For each pound of excess body weight lost, there is a corresponding four-fold reduction in the load exerted on the knee joint during daily activities.


Click to expand each Fact:

Who has arthritis?

  • 4.6 million Canadians.
  • Two thirds of those with arthritis are women.
  • Three out of five people with arthritis are under the age of 65.
  • One in six Canadians aged 15 years and older report having arthritis and arthritis-related conditions.
  • One in 1,000 children in Canada has arthritis.
  • Arthritis can strike anyone at any time, regardless of age, physical condition or ethnic background.

Types of arthritis

  • There are more than 100 different types of arthritis including: lupus, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
  • The most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis, causing more than 80% of hip and knee joint replacement surgeries. Inflammatory forms of the disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Costs of arthritis

  • Arthritis is the leading cause of work disability in Canada.
  • In rheumatoid arthritis, research shows rates of work disability are remarkably high. Approximately two out of three (66%) people with rheumatoid arthritis have experienced short term or long term loss of ability to work due to their disease.

Exercise and arthritis

  • Two-thirds of Canadians with arthritis believe that exercise poses the risk of aggravating their symptoms. The truth is that physical activity is a key prevention strategy for chronic diseases like arthritis.
  • Weight management is critical to arthritis. Losing 10 pounds of excess weight translates into a decrease in stress on the knees by 40 pounds.
  • According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, about 23,000 hip replacements and 38,400 knee replacements were done in 2006-07 and that number is expected to grow. Osteoarthritis was the most common diagnosis among hip replacement patients, 29.5 per cent, and knee replacement patients, 40 per cent.
  • Appropriate exercise has been shown to reduce pain for people with arthritis.


Click to expand each FAQ:

Q: How do I know if I have arthritis?

A: If you recognize arthritis symptoms, it is important to speak with your Doctor or Pharmacist about what you are experiencing. Early diagnosis and treatment are vitally important for achieving the best outcomes. A correct diagnosis is the first step towards taking control of arthritis and building a treatment plan.

While there is no known cause or cure for arthritis, the progression and symptoms of the disease can often be managed. Early diagnosis and appropriate medications, along with physical activity and weight management, are key strategies to manage arthritis, reduce disability, and improve quality of life

Q: What are common signs of degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis)?

A: Osteoarthritis represents more than 90% of all arthritis and is estimated to affect one in 8 (13%) Canadians. It is caused by a breakdown in the cartilage in joints resulting in bones rubbing together leading to pain, stiffness and eventual loss of use. Some forms of OA are genetically driven, while others are a result of injury, overuse, or advanced age.

Women and men are equally likely to be affected by osteoarthritis. It strikes most commonly after the age of 45, but people of all ages—from children to senior citizens- are at risk.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but hands and weight-bearing joints—including the spine, hips and knees—are most often affected. Other joints, like shoulders, elbows, and ankles, are less likely to be affected unless the joint has been damaged by injury.

The most common signs and symptoms of OA are:

  • Pain and stiffness in a joint or several joints lasting more than two weeks
  • Joint stiffness when getting up in the morning or after a period of inactivity, lasting less than 30 minutes
  • Very early symptoms of OA are intermittent pain with strenuous activity; with time,the pain is present more often
  • Joint crepitus (grinding)

If you are experiencing one or more of these signs, see your Doctor, Pharmacist or other member of your health care team about assessing your symptoms.

Q: What are common signs of inflammatory arthritis?

A:In inflammatory arthritis, the body’s own immune system attacks healthy joints and tissues, causing inflammation and joint damage. This category includes more than 90 different types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and many more.

While there are specific signs and symptoms that are associated with the different types of inflammatory arthritis, several are found in most people with inflammatory arthritis. These include:

  • Morning stiffness in and around the joints lasting at least one hour
  • Pain and stiffness in more than one joint area
  • Pain and stiffness that worsens with immobility
  • Pain and stiffness that improves with physical activity
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Joint swelling

The treatment for inflammatory arthritis can vary, depending on the type of arthritis as well as the severity of the disease.

If you are experiencing one or more of these signs, see your doctor or another member of your healthcare team about assessing and diagnosing your symptoms. Early diagnosis and appropriate management strategies are vital for dealing with arthritis.

Q: Is arthritis curable?

A: No, there is no known cause or cure for arthritis, but—thanks to leading research—the progression and symptoms of the disease often can be managed. Physical activity, weight management, early diagnosis and appropriate treatments are key strategies to prevent and manage arthritis, reduce disability, and improve quality of life. Learn more about Canadian efforts leading arthritis research for a cure.