Chiropractic is much more than spinal manipulations. It is a philosophy of medicine that emphasizes the use of noninvasive, non-addictive means of treating pain and allowing the body to heal itself. This approach means that most chiropractic offices offer a variety of treatments designed to improve overall wellness. This is particularly helpful when addressing one of the most common sources of pain: arthritis.
There are over a hundred types of joint diseases that fall under the “arthritis” umbrella. Taken together, they are among the most common cause of back pain and disability in the United States. Although people may associate arthritis primarily with older adults, there are also hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers living with it.
The most common form of arthritis and the type most often treated with spinal adjustments is osteoarthritis. Our joints, including those linking the vertebrae, are covered in cartilage to keep them from rubbing together. But in people with osteoarthritis, the cartilage has worn away and the bones are now uncomfortably exposed. As a result, they may feel stiff and experience the growth of bony spurs around the joints. This is the kind of arthritis that responds best to adjustments. By realigning the spine, we reduce the friction between the facet joints and reduce pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves branching off it, reducing the patient’s pain. Results are often apparent after just a few weeks of treatment.
Other types of arthritis are associated with inflammation of various tissues surrounding the joints. The most common of these is the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, which causes the immune system to attack the joints’ lining. Rheumatoid arthritis’s cause is unclear, but it is correlated with certain genes and behaviors such as smoking. Differentiating rheumatoid arthritis from other kinds may require blood work and imaging tests. While many chiropractors would prefer to get the inflammation under control before attempting adjustments, there are low-intensity realignment therapies such as traction available for people whose musculoskeletal systems have become more delicate. Soft tissue therapies are also available in many offices, including the use of cold lasers to reduce swelling.
Chiropractors often describe what we do as complimentary and focus on prevention as well as treatment. Two of the best defenses against arthritis are regular exercise and good nutrition. By building up their muscles, people provide better support for their joints. Following nutritional recommendations can help people to combat bone-destroying diseases such as osteoporosis and to reduce the amount of weight their joints must bear. Many offices provide ultrasound therapy, which destroys scar tissue, allowing more nutrient-rich blood to reach inflamed areas. Massages also push blood into areas suffering from degeneration and activate the body’s natural pain-relief response.