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Dealing With Arthritis

OSWEGO, NY – As a chiropractor, arthritis is a topic of great interest, because many of my patients wrestle with this condition, to varying degrees, from day to day.

spinal columnArthritis, according to the National Arthritis Foundation, affects approximately “47 million people and ranks second to heart disease as the leading cause of work disability.”

Translated into a ratio that is 1 in every 5 people.

The statistics are frightening and certainly worthy of our consideration.

Many people think of arthritis as a disease of older people, but there are approximately 300,000 children with arthritis.  I find this number staggering!

Arthritis is a Greek word, in origin, which means joint inflammation.

It is a very complicated disease causing a range of symptoms from slight pain to very debilitating, even crippling, symptoms.

It can affect the joints, surrounding tissue and connective tissue.

There are more than 150 different forms of arthritis currently recognized which affect one or more joints in the body.

Some of the forms you may have heard about are: Tendonitis, Bursitis, Gout, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.

The symptoms may be very different depending on the type of arthritis and the physiology of the person.

There are, however, two features that most forms have in common.

They are usually chronic, going on for a long time, and they damage the joints involved over time.

I will not be going into depth with the different kinds for, as I said, they are numerous and complex.

You can readily access these by going to a site such as the National Arthritis Foundation (http://www.arthritis.org).

Another resource site for general health questions is The American Chiropractic Association (http://www.amerchiro.org).

My intention is to give you a broad overview of the topic of Osteoarthritis, as it is the most common form, and discuss with you some interventions which have assisted many people in their battle with this disease.

Sometimes it is not clear what causes Osteoarthritis, but there are contributing factors which may predispose a person to this condition such as: heredity, obesity, some of the auto-immune diseases etc.

It can also be caused by long-term wear and tear due to poor biomechanics and past traumas.

To understand poor biomechanics, think of someone who is in construction, spending many hours hunched in a confined space in hard-working conditions like extreme heat or cold.

Over the years, that person stresses their spine, hips, shoulders, wrists, elbows etc.

After years of that occupational wear and tear, that individual suffers the effects of arthritis.

Many of us can relate to past trauma from a fall, accident, sports related injury etc.

Think of a football player who experiences a knee injury.

The injury heals or the pain subsides, but the joint has been left improperly aligned.

The person compensates by moving around in a “modified” manner that does not cause discomfort.

This is known as an antalgic gait or sign depending on the region injured.

This leads to further problems such as imbalances, which lead to uneven wear and tear.

In both cases the persons, over time, suffer from osteoarthritis.

To appreciate this further, think of the physiology of bones.

They have a cushion of cartilage at the ends.

These protect the bones where they connect from rubbing against one another.

If the cartilage wears down, the bones become rough, there is less cushion, rubbing occurs and this causes pain.

Osteoarthritis is most commonly asymmetrical, meaning worse in one joint than the other.

Over time the injury heals, but down the road the person begins to notice the knee, or other body part that was injured, begins to feel painful and they experience discomfort.

They may report that they are experiencing a grinding pain when they walk or run.

They may hear creaking sounds known as crepitus.

They may develop swelling, tenderness, stiffness in the joints making movement painful.

In both cases X-ray and MRIs are helpful in osteoarthritis diagnosis.

In the example of the football player, both knees are X-rayed to compare the joints.

Commonly an uneven joint space will be noted.

In other areas, as in the case of our construction worker, areas of uneven wear and tear will lead to what looks like bone spurs on the bones that make up the joint.

As a side note, my old radiology teachers, at Palmer College, liked to emphasize that “spurs” is an old western term usually referring to heel spurs, because it is shaped like a spur.

A spur is actually an osteophyte which is a thickening or growth of bone in a new area when stress is applied to bone.

There are several tips I might offer you:

Seek care. When injured, seek care to avoid further injury.  It is all too often people think the pain will go away on its own.  Pain is a symptom; it is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and needs to be corrected, not ignored.

Keep active. It used to be thought that if you had arthritis, you should avoid exercise as much as possible.  Now it is widely recognized that the best way to help your joints is to keep your joints mobile and prevent disuse related muscle wasting (atrophy) and weakening.  Remember move it or lose it!

There are three types of exercise that are recommended for people with arthritis: strengthening  to make your muscles stronger, helping to support the arthritic joints; range of motion exercises  which help reduce stiffness and help movement and aerobic which helps you with cardiovascular fitness.

Your doctor can make recommendations for you.

Warm-up. It is important to properly warm up and stretch before performing strenuous activities.

Also work at your own pace to reduce the risks of wear and tear and injuries.

I must caution that there are different kinds and causes of arthritis, as I stated earlier on.

Before you begin exercising consult your doctor to see what kind and level of exercise is appropriate and beneficial for you.

Your situation is different from your neighbor’s.

Your doctor can make recommendations for your particular condition.

Together you can plan a course that will help you feel more in control of your arthritis.

Chiropractic care can be very helpful in treating people with arthritis.

By remove misalignments, it will improve posture and gait, reduce stress on the joints and reduce the progression of arthritis.