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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Chiropractic: Making the Best of It

By Dr. Molly Casey

Older Man with Sore Hands

Arthritis by definition from Mayo Clinic is inflammation of one or more joints within the body. Symptoms are generally joint pain and stiffness that typically worsen with age. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but one of the most common is rheumatoid arthritis. While rheumatoid arthritis is progressive and incurable, the good news is that there are non-invasive, drug-free ways to manage the potentially debilitating pain it can cause.

Let’s first start off by understanding how rheumatoid arthritis impacts the body, then take a look at a natural treatment option commonly used to combat the pain and regain control of daily life.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. A properly functioning immune system attacks and disables foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria. In the case of RA, the immune system sees the body’s joints as the foreign substance/invader and responds accordingly by attacking them. This attack creates an inflammatory response in the joint lining (synovium) and associated cartilage and tissue. Pain, swelling and -- over time -- degradation of the joint can occur. If left unchecked, joints ultimately become loose, unstable, experience loss of mobility and become deformed. Joint damage cannot be reversed.

RA generally affects the most distal joints (joints farthest from the spine) first, such as fingers, hands, wrists, ankles and knees. One distinguishing factor of RA is that it affects joints symmetrically, so both ankles or both hands.

While there are cases of rheumatoid arthritis being present in toddlers to seniors, it most commonly affects women more than men and symptoms generally begin to appear between the ages of 19 and 60.

Treating Pain from Rheumatoid Arthritis with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic adjustments are a phenomenal way to provide some much needed relief while dealing with the pain of RA. The chiropractic adjustments performed are unique to the individual’s needs -- they provide a non-invasive, non-addictive and safe option compared to prescription opioids, which are commonly prescribed to patients to help them manage their pain.

Below are some benefits of chiropractic care for those with RA that certainly will aid the body’s journey to be healthy as possible:

  • Clearer communication in the body - A chiropractic adjustment supports proper functioning of the nervous system. The nervous system is the master communication system, which controls the function of every system and organ in the body. If the immune system is not functioning correctly -- for example, perceiving the joints as foreign invaders -- it is of utmost importance there are no interferences in the master communication system. Clearing the interference in the nervous system doesn’t guarantee a correction in immune system malfunction, but it does give your body the greatest chance for decreasing any additional stressors that may exacerbate symptoms and increase the need for the immune system to work harder than necessary.

  • Increased motion - One of the symptoms of RA is decreased range of motion -- and a chiropractic adjustment helps to restore joint restrictions in joints. When doctors of chiropractic restore movement to the spinal joints, it’s called a chiropractic adjustment. When done to extremities, it’s called a joint manipulation. Regularly maintaining joint motion through adjustments and extremity manipulation is a very important step in joint health; in my professional opinion as a chiropractor, it is logical to infer that such action may assist in decreasing or prolonging the effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Decreased inflammation - Chiropractic adjustments help decrease the inflammation process when proper joint motion is restored and proper nervous system functioning is supported. The entire premise of RA is that it is an inflammatory process. While the adjustment may not target the specificity of the immune system for recognizing a joint as an invader, by nature it can help decrease the inflammation process and associated pain.

As you can see, with so many benefits that directly combat symptoms caused by RA, chiropractic care can be an important tool to have in your health toolkit.

Yes, rheumatoid arthritis can leave you feeling overwhelmed, but understanding what it is and how your lifestyle and choices play a role in the disease are an important part of staying healthy. It is also important to have a partner in health to walk with you on the journey to good health, even with the obstacles of rheumatoid arthritis.

If you or a loved one is dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, visit the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic today to learn more about the many benefits of chiropractic care.

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