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Symptom of the Week: Arthritis

Arthritis (“arth” meaning joint, “itis” meaning inflammation)

Arthritis is a common disorder, particularly among older adults. The pain of arthritis can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. Many who suffer from arthritis use painkillers regularly to manage their condition, but research shows these drugs may be unsafe for long-term use.

The term arthritis encompasses a range of conditions that affect the joints. The most common is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is particularly prevalent in older adults as the result of years of wear and tear on the joints. The cartilage that separates bones in each joint becomes dry and degrades, eventually leaving the bones rubbing against each other. Surrounding tissue becomes inflamed, resulting in pain and stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systematic autoimmune disease which causes degradation of cartilage and joint inflammation similar to that of osteoarthritis, but usually marked by more intense pain. Other forms of arthritis and related disorders include psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis and gout.

The Risks of Pain Medication

Arthritis sufferers often rely on pain medications. While drugs may provide temporary relief, they should be used with great caution, because they can have dangerous side effects, particularly with long-term use.

One of the most common type of pain medication used is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. The risks from chronic use of NSAIDs are myriad. They can cause life-threatening ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, a side effect that occurs more frequently and with greater severity as people age. Some NSAIDs may increase the risk for heart attacks or strokes, and they don’t interact well with drugs used to treat heart failure. They can make high blood pressure worse, even uncontrollable, and impair kidney function.

Anti-inflammatory drugs have been found to actually to retard the growth of cartilage. (“NSAID and Osteoarthritis – Help or Hindrance?”, P. Brooks, et al, Journal of Rheumatology, 1982; 9:3-5.) Damaged cartilage that is not being repaired leads to more pain and inflammation. Consequently, you take more NSAIDs, which temporarily help reduce the pain and inflammation, but lead to further disrepair of cartilage. It’s a vicious cycle! This explains why many patients with arthritis who take anti-inflammatory drugs have symptomatic relief when they use them, but never seem to get better.

Chiropractic and Arthritis

Chiropractic care can have a positive impact on osteoarthritis. The most important way is it restores normal joint alignment. By aligning the joint and enabling it to move properly, chiropractic care can reduce further wear and tear and slow down the degenerative process. In addition, chiropractic care relieves pain and inflammation in the joints, which goes a long way to reducing the pain in osteoarthritis patients.

Chiropractic increases the mobility of the joint which can help improve joint stiffness and lack of motion. Proper body mechanics can help relieve stress on arthritic joints. Good posture is a key to proper body mechanics. The general rule with osteoarthritis is if you don’t move it, you lose it. So range of motion movements, stretches, and light exercises are essential for maintaining fluidity in the joints and flexibility of the muscles. Proper nutrition (to help with pain and inflammation) is also essential to help relieve symptoms.

Chiropractic can improve your quality of life! If you or someone you know suffers from arthritis, it’s time to see a chiropractor.

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