Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease & Chiropractic
There are numerous terms that are used interchangeably for Arthritis including Osteoarthritis, Degenerative disease, Degenerative Joint Disease and Osteoarthrosis. Simply put, Arthritis is a biomechanical abnormality which leads to degeneration or “wear and tear” of joints. This process involves both the bone and the cartilage within the affected joint producing characteristic symptoms of pain, stiffness, tenderness, joint locking, swelling and skin temperature change (heat). Arthritis may occur in any joint of the body, but most commonly presents in weight bearing joints of the spine, pelvis, hips, knees and feet or the hands. Arthritis sufferers often present to our practice when it’s too late and their problem has advanced. Having said that, it’s never too late to start Chiropractic care. Chiropractors are musculoskeletal experts dealing with the spine and joints every day in practice.
One of the major benefits of having your spine checked and adjusted on a regular basis is that the adjustment enhances the normal movement, flexibility and alignment of joints, therefore not only reducing the risk of developing Arthritis but preventing the natural progression of Arthritis and is therefore a fantastic option for Arthritis treatment.
TYPICAL CAUSES OF ARTHRITIS
- Poor posture, physical trauma, injury, spinal misalignment, genetics (hereditary), diabetes, inflammatory conditions, repetitive stress or overuse or nutritional deficiency
WHAT ARTHRITIS TREATMENT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Given its prevalence there are numerous Arthritis treatment techniques and modalities that provided sufferers relief. Below you will find some of the more clinically indicated methods of treatment.
Spinal manipulation is the most commonly used therapeutic tool for Chiropractors and is commonly referred to as an ‘adjustment.’ This technique results in improved joint alignment, flexibility, muscle relaxation and reduce pain amongst other things. Manual manipulation is contraindicated in individuals with advanced degeneration as it may in fact exacerbate symptoms. Given this, it is important that this type of treatment is only administered on a case by case basis. Other common techniques that Chiropractors may employ include joint mobilisation (gentle stretching), traction therapy (stretching of the thoracic and lumbar spine), activator (extremely gentle hand held instrument used to facilitate enhanced joint movement and is suitable for all individuals and severities) and SOT pelvic blocking.
Gentle remedial massage techniques are fantastic for relieving muscle tightness and fascial spasm associated with degenerative joint disease. Such techniques also aid in improving flexibility, general posture and movement and overall pain levels
Particular dietary supplements of interest include Chondroitin Sulphate in combination with Glucosamine and MSM, fish oil and krill oil. These supplements claim to improve cartilage regeneration and therefore cushioning between arthritic joints. Recently, a new product has entered the market, Flexeze Fortify with initial results demonstrating significant improvements.
As Arthritis most commonly presents in weight bearing joints, individuals who are able to lose weight will reduce the amount of pressure upon these joints. This reduced pressure may lead to an improvement in symptoms as well as improving their overall health and wellbeing.
Low Impact Exercise
One key characteristic distinguishing Arthritis from Rheumatoid Arthritis (inflammatory arthritis) is that degenerative arthritis sufferers report general improvements with low impact exercise. Although this is the case, prolonged exercise is generally considered an aggravating factor. Low impact exercises may include hydrotherapy classes, swimming, walking, gentle resistance training and cycling. It is essential to discuss appropriate exercises for your situation with a qualified exercise professional.
In worst case scenarios, surgical intervention may be required. Surgery may be used to remove degenerative discs, fuse sections of the spinal column, remove bone spurs and clean out arthritic joints. As with all procedures there are risks involved and this should be carefully considered beforehand and discussed with your doctor.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH TELL US?
- Improvements were noted in overall flexibility and total pain in a group of Arthritis sufferers following Chiropractic management. Hong, Y. (2011). Upper cervical manipulation combined with mobilization for the treatment of atlantoaxial osteoarthritis: A report of 10 cases. Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, 34(2); 131-137
- Chiropractic care has been shown to improve mobility, flexibility, potentially reverse, stop or retard degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and lessen the predisposition to injury and disability. Brantingham, J. (1994). Spinal manipulation may help reduce spinal degenerative joint disease and disability. Dynamic Chiropractic, 12(7)