“Can chiropractic help arthritis?” That’s a question every chiropractor is asked on a regular basis. Depending on the chiropractor, the answer might be “It depends”, “I don’t know”, or “Yes! Of course!” This is where you ask, “How can that be? My doctor says arthritis can’t be reversed.” Well, let’s take a look and see how chiropractic can help arthritis.
Before we go too far, it’s important to know that there are actually TWO different conditions known as “arthritis”. By definition, “arthritis” is inflammation of the joints. But as I said before, there are actually two kinds of “arthritis”. First, there’s osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. This includes DJD or Degenerative Joint Disease. Then, there’s several variations of rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s look at each of these separately.
Osteoarthritis or “wear and tear arthritis” is just that, a sort of wearing away of the joint. It usually shows up as we age OR after years of excessive use or wear on a joint. I can’t tell you how many folks tell me “The orthopedist told me the disc in my neck or low back is worn down because of my age.” My response is “Well, how old are the other discs in your spine?” Obviously, I see more of these problems in the spine because the spine is the focus of my practice as a chiropractor. DJD or osteoarthritis in the spine, is usually caused by a (or several) bones in the spine that are not in proper alignment. And just like your car being out of alignment, these areas wear out quicker than the rest of the spine. The discs wear away and the body tries to stabilize the area. On x-ray, this reaction looks like little bone spurs. It’s actually the body trying to fuse these vertebrae in order to protect you. Usually, the problem is not noticed until the disc is about gone and the spurs (or osteophytes) start to press on nerves, causing pain.
The typical medical approach to dealing with this type of arthritis is self-medication with over-the-counter painkillers and NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol, Advil, etc. If not resolved, you can end up on steroids or prescription painkillers that can lead to addiction. The eventual medical solution is surgery, sometimes very risky surgery with long-term consequences.
The other kind of arthritis, called rheumatoid arthritis, is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that causes pain, swelling and disfiguration, usually easily seen in the hands. As with most autoimmune conditions, the cause is unknown. Yet, treatments start with over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, then prescription painkillers, then immunosuppressant drugs. That just means that the drug you’re taking actually retards your immune system. The mandatory warnings on these drugs warn you of infection, disease and even death. Hmmm. Since we don’t know the CAUSE, should we be treating the effect with potentially lethal drugs?
I know you’re saying, “Alright, already. How can chiropractic help either of these conditions?” Since you asked, I’ll tell you.
There are two (at least) ways chiropractic helps those with arthritis. The first way is biomechanical. If you do, indeed, have spinal misalignments (we call them vertebral subluxations) that can cause the discs to wear down more quickly. We help correct those misalignments with gentle, specific adjustments. We do NOT twist, crack, or pop your spine. As your body stays in its proper alignment, pressure is taken off nerves AND your nervous system. When that happens, your symptoms tend to clear up. If you maintain that proper alignment, you become stronger and help keep them from coming back.
The other way chiropractic helps is neurological. Anyone that has ever suffered from an autoimmune disease knows that it’s made worse by stress. Chiropractic adjustments help take stress off your nervous system allowing your body to rest, relax and heal. By taking stress off your nervous system, your body functions better and is less likely to attack itself. When your body is restored to proper function, healing and health happens naturally.
So from both a biomechanical and neurological standpoint, chiropractic helps your body deal with both the causes and effects of both kinds of arthritis. If you suffer from either of these conditions, let us help you. If you do, I promise you more and better health and life.