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Can Chiropractic help with arthritis?

September 29th, 2021 by
Category: Arthritis Back pain Pain

A common question Chiropractors get asked is “can Chiropractic help with my arthritis?”. This can be a difficult question to answer because there are multiple different types of arthritis and they are often managed quite differently. 

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is most easily described as an inflammation, irritation or degeneration of the joints. There are many different kinds of arthritis, whether being caused by long term wear and tear, genetics or by conditions of the immune system.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is characterised by the wearing down of the body’s joints. This type of arthritis is not caused by any particular disease, but by excess force applied to a joint over a long period of time. Some of the most common places for Osteoarthritis to occur are the knees, elbows, hips, hands and spine. Symptoms of Osteoarthritis can include stiffness in the morning which can take around 20 minutes to subside, crepitus (grinding or clicking in the joints) and pain when moving the joint under pressure. 

How can Chiropractic help with Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis often accompanies symptoms such as stiffness and pain, which Chiropractors like myself often see in practice. Chiropractic cannot restore a degenerated joint to its previously normal state, however care may help with the symptoms. 

More importantly, we need to address the cause of Osteoarthritis, as simply managing the stiffness may not slow the progression of the Osteoarthritis in the long run. There are often many causes of Osteoarthritis, which may change the way it should be managed. A few possible causes of Osteoarthritis include: 

  • Overuse of a particular joint over time: This can be something as simple as a mechanic who uses their hands for rough work over many years, wearing out their hand joints over this long period of time. 
  • Normal use of a badly injured joint over time: A good example of this could be if a motorcyclist had an accident and very badly tore multiple ligaments in one of their knees, the knee would be less stable after this and may develop Osteoarthritis in the future.
  • Obesity: When the body carries excess weight, more pressure is applied to weight bearing joints. These include the hips, knees, ankles, low back and neck in particular.
  • Conditions affecting the healing process: An example of this would be diabetes. Conditions such as diabetes can affect many areas of the body, including the joint systems.

For more about Osteoarthritis and Chiropractic, read our blog ‘Can Chiropractic care help with Osteoarthritis?’.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is much less common than Osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis should actually be thought of as a disorder of the immune system rather than the joints themselves. The way Rheumatoid arthritis affects the body is through the immune system attacking the cartilage and joint capsules. This most commonly affects the hands and feet, but can also affect other joints in the body. 

Managing Rheumatoid arthritis using Chiropractic requires a multi-modal approach, and so as Chiropractors we make sure to increase mobility and decrease pain as much as possible, while also advising on dietary modifications, exercises and lifestyle changes where appropriate so you get the most out of your care.

What causes Rheumatoid arthritis?

It is not known if there is one specific cause of Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is what is known as an autoimmune condition, meaning the body begins attacking the joints as though they are a bacteria, virus or a foreign object that isn’t meant to be there. Because of this, there is no specific cure for Rheumatoid arthritis, however an approach which utilises different ways of managing this condition can help sufferers live relatively comfortably depending on the severity of each case.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a little like Rheumatoid arthritis, except it primarily occurs in the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive, chronic inflammatory condition which must be managed well to minimise the effects long term. One of the biggest problems with Ankylosing spondylitis is that it can cause progressive fusion of the spinal joints from the pelvis up to the neck. This usually occurs over a long period of time, which is why it is important to have it diagnosed as soon as possible to begin proper management. 

Chiropractors often see people suffering from spinal pain, and occasionally someone will come in with Ankylosing spondylitis and not know it. Taking an x-ray is a good way to properly assess and diagnose this condition, since it allows for evaluation of any fusion or progression. With co-management with your general practitioner, Chiropractic may be very helpful to sufferers of Ankylosing spondylitis, since the joints that remain free from fusion can be adjusted to attempt to maximise range of motion and minimise pain. 

In summary, if you are getting back pain, neck pain or pain which is unusual, you should seek the advice of your healthcare professional. At Total Health Chiropractic, we take a thorough approach to our initial consultation with every person. The aim of this is to diagnose the problem as accurately as possible, so that the best possible management can be planned out for your condition. 

By Dr. Beau Kenihan (Chiropractor)

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