Millions of people suffer from some form of arthritis. Because arthritis is commonly believed to be incurable, the standard medical response has been simply to prescribe medication to reduce the symptoms. However, as we’ve seen with many of the arthritis medications that have been “pulled off the shelves” in years past, these medications come with side effects. Now evidence shows that the pain and disability caused by arthritis can be alleviated and even prevented through chiropractic care, in conjunction with dietary modifications, nutritional supplementation, stress reduction and other alternative therapies.
Among the oldest known human afflictions, arthritis can affect virtually every part of the body, from the feet to the knees, back, shoulders and fingers. Arthritis is basically an inflammation of the joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage which eventually leads to the breaking down of those structures. The effects of arthritis range from slight joint pain, stiffness, and swelling to crippling disability. It can affect people of all ages, but is most common in seniors. There are a variety of arthritic conditions, with the three most common forms of the disease being osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout. OA is a degenerative disease of the large weight-bearing joints. It is often associated with aging because as we age, you have more wear and tear on the joints which leads to the arthritis. People with the condition often have small bony growths, calcium spurs and occasional soft cysts on their bones and in their joints. As the disease progresses, joint cartilage deteriorates to the point where it interferes with movement. RA, while less common than OA, is a serious and painful joint disease that can lead to crippling disability in young and old alike. RA involves damage to synovial tissue, which is the membrane that lines joints and secretes the lubricant that normally allows bones to move painlessly against other bones. Symptoms of RA include fatigue, low-grade fever, weakness, joint stiffness and vague joint pain. Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a buildup in the body of uric acid, which is found in meats and other foods and also produced by the body. When the level of uric acid rises to unhealthy levels in the body, it crystallizes in the joint cartilage and synovial tissue and fluid, causing sharp, needle-like pain in the joints, as well as fever, chills and loss of mobility.
The primary keys for treating and preventing arthritis are proper nutrition, detoxification and stress reduction. Pain management and correction of skeletal and postural problems can be addressed through chiropractic, while other modalities, including herbal medicine, environmental medicine, and acupuncture may also help.
Chiropractic has proven highly effective for many who suffer from the disease, especially those with OA, as an estimated 95% of osteoarthritic patients also have misaligned joints. If a joint is out of position and there are abnormal stresses, OA usually occurs. This is because OA is directly related to skeletal and postural stresses on joints. Tendons and ligaments can be torn or stretched as a result of injury, exercise or aging. The layers which hold muscles, joints and organs together tend to thicken and rigidify from overuse. When the body tries to compensate, bony spurs may appear in joints and on bones. Regular preventative chiropractic treatments can help to diminish these abnormal stresses and reduce symptoms or even prevent the bony changes from occurring.
Another important step in treating arthritis is helping people achieve a normal body weight, as excess weight puts increased stress on weight-bearing joints. A diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains can help people reduce weight while maximizing nutritional benefits. Certain foods are known to be beneficial, while others are not. Cold water fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon and other sources of essential fatty acids are valuable for the prevention of arthritis, because of the anti-inflammatory characteristics of such foods. Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugars are best avoided.
If you would like additional information on natural treatments of arthritis, you may want to look at some of my other blog posts on the subject: Chiropractic Treatment of Osteoarthritis, Nutritional Supplements for Osteoarthritis, Medical Treatment of Arthritis, How Do You Know If It’s Arthritis.