Arthritis Symptoms & Treatment
Chiropractic Care for Arthritis
The joints of the human body are essentially shock absorbers as they endure the force of impact from walking, jumping, and bear the weight of the body again the pull of Earth’s gravity.
Over time, our joints weaken, and arthritis may appear.
It’s important to understand how arthritis occurs and what you can do to treat or prevent it.
One type of arthritis is inflammatory arthritis, which is usually addressed by medication, but it is not the focus of this web page. This web page will focus on the most common form of arthritis called osteoarthritis.
Joint pain in the knees, elbows, wrists, fingers, and throughout the body can result from repetitive stress. Joint pain can be due to a number of different factors, but arthritis is one of the main disease processes that affects the musculoskeletal system. Even people who live relatively sedentary lives could suffer from arthritis eventually due to poor diet, aging, or other degenerative conditions that affect the joints.
Arthritis is common among older individuals as well as athletes who routinely put extreme stress on their joints. It is an incurable degenerative condition that will worsen over time, but there are ways to manage and alleviate the symptoms.
One way that arthritis affects the joints is by basically causing them to rust. The joints typically start by having a problem with restricted movement.
There is decreased flexibility on the joint and surrounding muscle and the muscles become weak due to lack of use and decreased movement. Bone spurs can begin to grow on or in the joints while it rusts and degenerates.
Another version of arthritis can occur from excessive movement. When a joint has become injured and is unstable for a long period of time, it can lead to a wear and tear in the joint from too much movement.
The classic example is that people who get ACL tears in their knee are most likely going to end up with early arthritis in that knee. The example I talk with patients about is what happens to a pull tab on can if you move it back and forth. The metal weakens and will break overtime.
While someone does not need to worry about their leg falling off from this type of arthritis, it usually gets the point across.
It is also known that chronic inflammation in the body plays a role in the progression of osteoarthritis. This is different than the acute inflammation related to other types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus. The things that you eat can be a major factor in the rate that osteoarthritis progresses.
The symptoms of arthritis typically include pain and stiffness and there may be decreased range-of-motion (ROM) in the affected joint as well. This pain and stiffness often gets better with movement of the joint.
Pain and reduced ROM in the joint may lead to limited functionality. When it occurs in the hands, it can impact grip strength, making it difficult to grasp or pick up everyday objects.
There is a lot of false information and assumptions out there concerning osteoarthritis.
While it is true that many people do have some degeneration of the joints as they age, the clear majority do not experience pain or other symptoms. Arthritis is not an inevitable part of aging.
Degeneration can show up in a person’s early 20’s. Arthritis has degrees of severity as shown on x-ray and people experience it in different ways. It can also behave a little differently in the spine compared the hips or hands.
I have seen patients that have no complaints in an area of their spine that is riddled with arthritis, whereas they have major pain in another area that has barely any arthritis.
It could be argued that the stiffness that one experiences as one ages has more to do with lack of activity than arthritis and degeneration.
Over 85% of people between the ages of 65 and 69 have no problems in self-care activities or walking.
One third of people over 80 years old have no problems walking a quarter mile, lifting 10 lbs. or climbing 10 steps without resting and less than half of people ages 80 to 84 have difficulty in self-care activity or walking.
Moderate physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to joints in addition to being good for muscle health and bone density. People that are active and try to stay active are doing a lot toward dealing with arthritis.
Chiropractic care specifically treats the restricted movement in joints. The whole point of the chiropractic adjustment is to restore normal joint ROM when a joint has been restricted.
The adjustment works by not only affecting the inside portion of the joint, but the restrictive covering of the joint called the capsule.
Manipulation can break adhesions and restrictions within the joint to improve the movement of the joint.
Chiropractic adjustments also have a direct impact on the muscles surrounding the joints as an adjustment can help shut down overactive muscles.
In addition to all that, chiropractic adjustments impact the nervous system and can cause a local and global inhibition of pain.
Soft tissue massage and gentle stretches can help relieve pressure in the affected joints.
Graston Technique can help relieve the restrictions found around joints as well.
Moderate physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to joints and will help slow or even prevent arthritis. Improvements in mobility and strength through therapeutic exercises is part of the process of recovery.
When a joint is unstable or has too much movement, rehabilitation exercises are the proper course of care to strengthen the surrounding muscles.
Consistent care from a chiropractor can help relieve pressure on other areas of the body that may be making the arthritis worse.
As you can see, there are ways to treat the symptoms of arthritis without invasive methods but some severe cases of arthritis may require surgical intervention or medication.
How Chiropractic Can Help Arthritis
Chiropractic care focuses on the relationship between the spine and the rest of the body.
Spinal injuries, poor posture, obesity, and several other medical and lifestyle factors can cause problems for the spine, which in turn cause problems for the rest of the body.
A chiropractor such as Dr. Royer, will likely recommend a series of stretches and soft tissue exercises to help reduce inflammation and relieve pressure in affected joints.
Adjustments to the spine may also help to improve posture and improve health in other areas of the body.
FAQs – Chiropractic Care for Arthritis
How does chiropractic cure arthritis?
There is no way to cure arthritis, but you can manage the symptoms and prevent them from worsening by adjusting your lifestyle and receiving consistent chiropractic care.
What will happen on my first visit for my arthritis pain?
Usually, after being greeted and completing paperwork, Dr. Royer will perform a thorough history to learn more about your symptoms. Dr. Royer will then perform a complete physical examination. Depending on your symptoms and history, Dr. Royer may order blood work and refer you to an outside lab. Dr. Royer may also order imaging like x-rays or more advanced imaging like an MRI or a CT.
After the history and exam are completed and any addition tests have been reviewed, Dr. Royer will discuss the findings with you and design a comprehensive treatment plan to address your difficulties. This and your initial treatment may occur on a separate visit.
How long does chiropractic care for arthritis take?
Chiropractic focuses on long-term wellness, and you likely won’t feel complete relief after just a single visit. However, long-term care can progressively improve your pain and other symptoms by relieving the stress on your joints.
What are the risk factors for osteoarthritis?
There are a few risk factors that you can’t change and a few that you can. You can’t change your age and your genetic sex. Females have the tendency to develop more arthritis than males, especially after the age of 50.
There are also some people who seem to be predisposed to having osteoarthritis because it runs in the family. While it appears to be partly genetic, it may also be affected by behavior and lifestyles that are passed down in a family.
There are other factors that you can have an influence on. Your weight is one thing that you can change, as being obese places more stress on the joints, especially the hips and knees. Smoking can make it difficult to stay active and can negatively affect the joints in return, so you should work at quitting smoking. Swelling, redness or excessive warmth around a joint are possible signs of infection and should cause you to see your primary care physician. Seeing your primary care physician to deal with a possible infection is prudent because protecting your joints from infection is another factor in preventing arthritis.
Repetitive stress injuries can build up over time and can lead to damage of the joint. This can be affected by lifestyle and occupation. Joint injuries are also associated with arthritis. Make sure you take care of your body to prevent repetitive stress and old injuries from devolving into arthritis. Chiropractic care, massage therapy and Graston Technique would be a wonderful combination of treatments to help prevent arthritis.
What are the typical medical treatment options for arthritis?
Conservative treatments, like lifestyle changes, weight loss, chiropractic care and physical therapy, are the best options for most people with arthritis pain. Options become more invasive and can include over-the-counter (OTC) medication, prescription medication, joint injections and surgery. There are other options in the pain management arena as well.
A common, well-known side effect of most OTC and some prescription medications is the suppression of cartilage repair within joints. Some NSAIDs actually inhibit muscle protein metabolism and in turn, can make you weaker. Cortisone joint injections can lead to increased cartilage and joint damage as well as tendon rupture. Surgery can include scoping, resurfacing and even joint replacement, but there are always risks with anesthesia.
Do not get me wrong though. While you should know about the risk of these procedures, there are times where they are called for as a treatment. The issue is that they should be used sparingly and in conjunction with conservative treatment, like chiropractic care, or after conservative care has failed.