Osteoarthritis can be a debilitating disease that affects all aspects of your life. Depending on which joints are affected, this chronic form of arthritis can make it hard to perform simple day-to-day tasks, and live life to the fullest. To make matters worse, it is incurable and progressive, which means it will only get worse. In many situations, sufferers resign themselves to living with the pain and limited mobility that the degeneration of the joint brings, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Chiropractic treatments have proven to be effective in restoring range of motion, decreasing pain and discomfort, and increasing the quality of life of patients.
Osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage in the joint. This differs from rheumatoid arthritis, which is inflammatory in nature, and is considered an autoimmune disorder. 90% of arthritis cases are due to osteoarthritis. It’s easy to understand why this is the case when you consider that osteoarthritis most often occurs due to wear and tear on the joints. We use our joints all day, everyday!
Osteoarthritis develops over time, as the cartilage that cushions the joints begins to break down. As this cartilage disappears, the bones begin to rub against each other, which can cause pain, stiffness, and loss of movement in the affected joint.
No one can say for sure why osteoarthritis develops. This loss of function and the development of arthritis could simply be a factor of aging, or it may be caused by repetitive use, trauma or muscle weakness. There is some thought that genetics can play a role, while obesity and smoking have both been proven to increase the risk of developing the disease.
The hips and knees are two of the most common joints affected by osteoarthritis, but any weight-bearing joint can be affected. This includes the spine, shoulders, lower back, and fingers. Since the disease can progress slowly over time, many people are unaware that they have the disease, and write off stiffness and pain as a normal part of aging.
A chiropractor may suspect osteoarthritis if the patient complains of grinding or clicking in the joints. The Doctor of Chiropractic will first perform a physical examination, and talk with the patient about their level of pain or discomfort, as well as any changes in function or loss of mobility that they have noticed. The practitioner will check the patient’s range of motion using a variety of orthopedic tests. If the range is found to be impaired, the chiropractor will order imaging tests to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis. X-rays, CT scans and MRIs can all be used to confirm the diagnosis, and identify which specific joints are affected.
As with any medical issue, treatment will vary from patient to patient. Severe and advanced cases, for example, may be especially painful for the patient and require a lighter touch than less advanced cases.
The primary goals of treatment are to:
To achieve these goals, chiropractors will use many different tools and techniques for treatment.
Early diagnosis and intervention are key to a patient’s long-term prognosis. All too often, patients ignore the pain and discomfort and end up waiting too long before seeking medical treatment. They may mask the pain with painkillers, but this is a band-aid solution, at best. There will come a time when pain medication won’t work anymore, but when that time comes, it may be too late for any other kind of treatment. Bones may eventually fuse together, and once that happens, any hope of regaining full mobility and function is lost.
With early intervention, osteoarthritis can be managed to the point where patients do not need to rely on painkillers every day, and can enjoy a full and active life for many years. Regular and routine chiropractic treatments keep joints functioning well, improve range of motion, and can decrease or even eliminate pain.