Chiropractic Treatment of Arthritis in the Medically Integrated Clinic

Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability. It can severely affect someone’s quality of life preventing them being able to work or enjoy life. Beyond skin disorders and other joint disorders, back pain is the third most common reason for visits to the doctor's office. After childbirth, it is the second most common reason for people being hospitalized.

           Back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost work days each year - that’s two work days for every full-time employee in America. Worldwide, reports of lower back pain have increased by 54% between 1990 and 2015.

           Low-back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in healthcare costs each year - add to that wages lost, decreased productivity, and the figure likely exceeds $100 billion annually. (source: acatoday.org)

Definitions:

Arthritis: inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Itis means inflammation.

Osteoarthritis:  commonly referred to as "wear and tear" of the joints, OA is a disease of the entire joint, involving the cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. Injury can cause the condition as well as make it worse.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: autoimmune disease causing chronic joint inflammation. The condition can't be cured. RA symptoms include hand and foot swelling, joint and back pain throughout the body.

Spinal Stenosis: when the small spinal canal, which contains the nerve roots and spinal cord, becomes compressed. This causes a “pinching” of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which leads to pain, cramping, weakness or numbness.

How is Osteoarthritis Treated?

            Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition. Cartilage around a joint deteriorates through use over the years, the joint becomes stiff, loses flexibility, and can become painfully inflamed.

            People want to avoid pain, so they favor sore joints and the issue worsens with lack of motion. With lack of motion, blood supply to the affected area is reduced.

            In order for healing to occur, blood must flow into the joint or muscles surrounding the affected area. Without exercise or physical therapy, the joint can freeze up due to a decreased blood supply. A chiropractor can mobilize that area through manipulative adjustments, helping to increase motion and blood flow into the affected area. Then, with continued therapeutic exercise, mobility can be restored and the joint will become healthier.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

            This creates inflammation causing tissues that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in joints. If inflammation goes unchecked, it can damage cartilage, the elastic tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint, as well as the bones themselves.

            It can hurt so much that the victim will do almost anything to ease the pain. There is no known cure, but early and aggressive treatment usually improves symptoms.

Similar to Osteoarthritis

            Rheumatoid arthritis is similar to, but far more troubling than osteoarthritis because it often requires drugs to treat and the inflammation can cause permanent damage to the tissues. In less severe cases of osteoarhtritis, over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen (NSAIDS) can be effective. In others, to slow the damaging effects of inflammation, corticosteroid medications, including prednisone, prednisolone, and methyprednisolone are called for.

           They may also be used to treat RA in order to get potentially damaging inflammation under control. Because of the risk of side effects with these drugs, doctors prefer to use them for as short a time as possible and in low doses.

Chiropractic Role

             Most chiropractors use other treatments in addition to manipulation, including massage, heat and ice, ultrasound, electronic stimulation, rehabilitative exercises, and magnet therapy. Such therapies might be helpful in someone with RA who has other conditions that could benefit: massage therapy for tight muscles, for example, or ultrasound for a condition of the feet called plantar fasciitis, which causes pain on the bottom of your foot because of tight and inflamed tissues.” - Madeline R. Vann, MPH (source: everydayhealth.com

Spinal Stenosis and Chiropractic

            This painful condition is the narrowing of the area where the spinal nerve roots exit the spine on their way to the arms or legs, resulting in radiating pain down the arms or legs, with neck or low back pain. 

            Visiting a chiropractor is one of the best ways to manage symptoms of spinal stenosis. Chiropractors will treat spinal stenosis by addressing the underlying cause by employing techniques to improve range of motion.

            Patients will receive spinal adjustment to open up the passageway of the spinal cord. This will help take pressure off the back and provide pain relief.

           Stretching will also help loosen tight muscles and help eliminate compensatory postures that can make the issue worse. Chiropractors will also teach patients how to perform certain exercises to strengthen back muscles and help improve posture.

Integration Benefit

            A chiropractor can do only so much when treating these conditions. There are license limitations on treatment protocols, which is a major reason why you should integrate. Once medically integrated, your practice can balance chiropractic treatment with physical therapy, regenerative medicine, and needed, non-opioid medications to help address pain.

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