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Chiropractic Care for Arthritis

My grandmother struggles with painful arthritis. The joints in her fingers and hands swell until she can’t hold a pen or even pick up a knife or fork without pain. She’s one of the estimated 40 million Americans with arthritis.

In the past, arthritis was seen as a natural consequence of aging and little was done about it. Now patients who see conventional medical doctors are commonly put on anti-inflammatory or painkilling drugs, while patients who see chiropractors receive personalized treatment to relieve their symptoms.

Simply put, arthritis is defined as swelling in the joint. Primary arthritis is arthritis without an identified cause, while other forms of arthritis are secondary to a disease or other condition. More than two hundred different types of arthritis have been discovered, but the nine most common forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis, gout, pseudogout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Still's disease, and ankylosing spondylitis. Osteoarthritis is the most common kind, and is usually seen in older patients like my grandmother. The second most common is rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease where the patient’s own body attacks the joint. This is more commonly seen in young people - in fact, 60% of arthritis patients are younger than 65.

Chiropractors say they can both treat and help prevent arthritis. How can arthritis be prevented? Well, when a spinal joint is stuck or “subluxated,” the normal movement of the spine is altered because of the faulty movement between the vertebrae. Chiropractic care restores movement and function, so excess pressure is not forced on any joints.  

For example, when two vertebrae are fused together, the levels above and below the fusion have to work harder for the spine to move and function and tend to develop osteoarthritis sooner than the other levels which aren't fused. When a joint has proper biomechanics, it reduces the wearing of the joint that can eventually lead to arthritis.

Chiropractors practice holistic medicine, including massage and adjustments but also recommending nutritional changes, specific exercises, weight management, and perhaps the use of a splint for a painful joint. Diets emphasizing an anti-inflammatory process are generally recommended, such as the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet. Chiropractors advocate a “drug-free, hands-on” approach, rather than conventional medical doctors who often prescribe painkillers for chronic arthritis pain. 

If you already have arthritis, a doctor of chiropractic may help restore the lost range of motion to your joints, improve your general flexibility and endurance, and may increase your muscle tone and strength.


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