Patients suffering from arthritis have pain and difficulty during daily tasks. While medical science has provided many types of prescriptions, chiropractic care can offer those with arthritis alternative or complementary care.
Types of Arthritis
Inflammation at the point where two bones meet, the joints, is arthritis. Cartilage, which protects a joint, breaks down with arthritis. If the bones rub together, swelling and stiffness occur. There are actually about 100 kinds of arthritis caused by a variety of factors, including the following: broken bones, wear-and-tear of the joints, bacterial or viral infection, and autoimmune (the body attacks itself). Some arthritis goes away on its own, while other types are chronic. The most common variety is osteoarthritis, but other kinds are gonococcal, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, psoriatic, rheumatoid (in children or adults), scleroderma, and lupus. Severe complications can arise beyond limited movement and pain. Patients can end up with joint deformity.1
Most arthritic patients cannot expect a cure; however, there are more conservative treatment options that don’t involve medication. Those with arthritis can make lifestyle changes, such as including range-of-motion, low-impact aerobics, and strength exercises into their routine. Repetitive motions should be avoided. For more serious cases, physical therapy, with heat/ice, splints, orthotics, water therapy, and massage can be helpful. Getting enough sleep, avoiding stressful positions, installing assistance devices in the home, reducing stress (i.e., yoga, meditation), and using capsaicin cream can also benefit those with this disease. Dietary changes are also recommended, including weight loss and eating omega-3 fatty acid foods, such as flaxseed, soybeans, and walnuts. When these treatments don’t provide enough relief, doctors may prescribe medications such as non-aspirin (acetaminophen), NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), biologic drugs, corticosteroids, DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), or immunosuppressants. All medications carry side effects, and some can be severe and cause long-term issues. If the prescriptions don’t work enough, doctors may try more dramatic and permanent treatments, including surgery. Arthroplasty is used to rebuild the joint, and some patients may receive joint replacement. If nothing else works, long-term chronic pain and disability may be the result.2
Patients may have arthritis as a result of misalignments of the bones. Even the small joints can be damaged by rheumatoid arthritis. Chiropractors can manipulate the spine to help patients get relief.3 In fact, a recent study found that “63% of people who visited a rheumatologist for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia (reported that)… Chiropractic (was the complementary and alternative medicine) found to be most helpful for these conditions.”4 Chiropractors will also tend to recommend stretching, strengthening, and endurance exercises. They may suggest fatty-acid supplements and dietary recommendations, as well as turmeric, ginger extract, nettle leaf extract, and a “vegetarian or low-allergen diet”. Chiropractors can be very helpful in restoring range-of-motion, improving flexibility, and increasing strength and muscle tone.5