I have had many patients tell me that their arthritis is flaring up and they just “deal with it” in the course of my career as a chiropractor and personal trainer. However, when I asked these patients where the condition was hurting them, the answers varied greatly. Some of the conditions had to do with arthritis, and others had to do with something completely different, but felt like what they had read about online about arthritis. I would like to shed some light on what arthritis is and how best to “deal with it” if you have it and even better, how you can avoid getting it in the future. So, how do you know if you are suffering from arthritis? How do you know if your pain or condition is related to a particular form of arthritis? What can be done about it? Well, the answer can be complicated because there are different types of arthritis. The top two are Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA) aka Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).
Less common autoimmune forms of arthritis include Psoriatic, Enteropathic, and Akylosing Spondylitis. Other conditions like Gout can lead to arthritic joints when left untreated. Extreme forms of arthritis are called arthritis mutilans. For the purpose of this article I will be focusing on RA and OA.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by overall joint pain, usually in females, and once it progresses it can lead to deformities in the joints of the hands and fingers. Because it is a systemic autoimmune disease, it usually affects the smaller joints on both sides of the body, such as the hands, equally. Physicians call this a bilateral and symmetric finding and can be confirmed by a blood test and on x-ray imaging. RA can also affect the other joints such as the knees, hips, pelvis, and less commonly the spine, which is a good reason why you should get checked if you are having symptoms of joint pain by your chiropractor or physician. At Allen Chiropractic, we will help guide you through the best treatment options for you, starting with the least invasive first!
With RA, there is typically stiffness in the morning that gets better as the day goes on and with movement. So, regular exercise is going to be the best prescription for pain relief. In addition to lots of exercise, avoiding inflammatory type foods such as red meats, coffee, alcohol, and sticking to inflammation fighters like fruits, vegetables, and monounsaturated fats (the kind found in extra virgin olive oil) has been shown effective in managing symptoms of RA.
Osteoarthritis (OA) usually affects joints on one side of the body or the other and usually occurs in larger joints like the knees, hips and spine. When it affects the hands, it usually is only in one hand and is caused by extra wear and tear type work like heavy manual labor. Unlike RA, osteoarthritis can be prevented, especially when it comes to the spine. Chiropractic care helps to restore the natural curves and alignment of the spine and other joints in the body by gently repositioning the joints and adjusting the soft tissues to accommodate for this process. I often make the analogy of the alignment of the tires on your car. If you drive 10, 20, 200, 2000 miles on misaligned tires, what happens to the wear and tear on the tread of the tires? It wears unevenly and more rapidly right? This is similar to your spine and other joints. When they are misaligned, they are prone to wear down unevenly and more rapidly. That is why it is important to get your spine alignment checked at least once a year to make sure it is properly aligned and functioning properly to prevent degenerative changes from occurring in the first place. Once arthritis occurs, it can be difficult to manage. Also, there are some medications and injections used by traditional medical approaches that can actually promote arthritic changes to occur in your joints. Research has consistently shown that Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate can help with this condition by giving your body extra resources it needs to build new cartilage and pad the joint enough to be more comfortable. They are also naturally anti-inflammatory which is good if you have systemic inflammation and you don’t want the harsh side effects from prolonged non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as ibuprofen, Aleve, or Tylenol . The key is that you have to be regular with oral ingestion of 1500 mg per day of the supplement for at least 4-6 weeks to get the best possible results. Also, make sure your supplements are from a pharmaceutical grade lab and use research based formulas and concentrations, otherwise you might not be absorbing the material in the capsule or tablet. I recommend Biotics, Metagenics, and some other laboratories depending on the condition I need to address. Also, making sure you are balancing your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid ratio is ideal to fight against inflammatory disorders in general. An ideal ratio is 2:1 omega-6 to omega 3. Most people have ratios of over 6:1 or more, which is pro-inflammatory and promotes conditions like arthritis.
If you have arthritis in your family, you may also be predisposed to this condition. So take action early to give your body the best chance at having good function later in life. Your quality of life when you are 50, 60, 70, or 100 years old depends on it!