If you think you may be suffering from arthritis, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with 54 million adults and 300,000 babies and children living with arthritis of some kind. Just what is arthritis, what causes it and what are the best ways to manage the pain and discomfort?
Arthritis isn’t actually a name for a single disease. Instead, it’s become a colloquial way to describe joint pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis and related medical conditions, and while it’s most common among women and strikes more frequently as people age, anyone can be diagnosed with arthritis.
Joint swelling, pain, stiffness and a decreased range of motion are the most common symptoms of arthritis and they show up differently for each patient. The symptoms may be mild, debilitating, or fall somewhere in between. Sometimes these symptoms seem to clear up for a while; other times, they just keep getting worse.
Severe arthritis often results in chronic pain and an inability to perform routine activities, like walking or climbing stairs. Permanent changes to your joints may be visible to the naked eye but usually only seen via x-ray.
The Most Common Types of Arthritis
Also known as osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Degenerative arthritis occurs when the cartilage gradually disintegrates, causing your bones to rub against each other, and resulting in joint stiffness, pain, and swelling. The pain may become chronic as time goes by and the joints continue to lose strength. Some patients will eventually require a joint replacement.
Risk factors include being overweight, a history of degenerative arthritis in your family, your age, and previous injuries such as a torn ACL.
Adjusting your lifestyle may reduce the risks or delay the onset of degenerative arthritis. Preventative recommendations include:
- Making time for both rest and regular physical activity.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Strengthening your muscles around the joint to provide more support.
The immune system is supposed to keep the body safe from disease, but sometimes it can mistakenly attack something in your system that’s not dangerous at all. With inflammatory arthritis (also known as rheumatoid arthritis), the immune system attacks the joints, resulting in joint erosion and even organ damage. A combination of genetic characteristics and environmental factors can cause this autoimmune disease. For example, smoking cigarettes is an environmental factor that can trigger rheumatoid arthritis in genetically-susceptible people.
Early diagnosis is critical to minimizing permanent joint damage. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs are often use to reduce pain, restore function, and prevent additional joint damage.
Compared to the causes and symptoms of other types of arthritis, infectious arthritis is rather straightforward: bacteria, a virus, or a fungus enters the joint and triggers inflammation. Food poisoning, sexually-transmitted infections, and hepatitis C are all examples of the types of organisms that can infect the joints.
Although sometimes infectious arthritis becomes chronic, antibiotic treatment often clears up the joint infection.
As the body breaks down purines, an element that’s found in human cells and in many foods, it forms a substance called uric acid. Sometimes the body naturally produces more uric acid than is needed, causing growth of needle-like crystals in the joint. When this happens, patients often feel sudden or extreme joint pain. If uric acid levels aren’t quickly reduced through diet and other medical measures, chronic pain and disability may result.
Your doctor will usually conduct a physical exam to check for swollen joints and loss of motion, plus blood tests, and imaging scans may be used to determine which type of arthritis you have. A rheumatologist, a doctor specializing in arthritis, is often called in for both uncertain diagnoses and when inflammatory arthritis is suspected. You may be referred to an orthopedic surgeons when joint replacements and other joint surgery is required.
For most joint pain, there are steps you can take to effectively relieve your pain and discomfort, including incorporating chiropractic care into your treatment.
How Chiropractic Care Treats Arthritis Pain
Chiropractic care is a preferred treatment for many arthritis patients because it is a safe, non-invasive, and non-addictive alternative to prescription and over-the-counter pain medications that come with so many unwanted side effects.
Treatment for arthritis pain may include chiropractic adjustments, gentle pressure applied to the spine and other joints to reduce restrictions and misalignments. By improving your spinal health, joint mobility, and the functioning of your nervous system, your body can better manage the pain and swelling that comes with arthritis.
Though every patient’s chiropractic treatment plan and results are different, many arthritis patients experience significantly-reduced pain and discomfort, decreased inflammation, and an improved range of motion and flexibility.
Is chiropractic care a good fit for your arthritis pain and discomfort? Make an appointment online to explore how we can create your customized treatment plan to help you feel better now and in the future.