Arthritis is feared by all, but is a natural part of aging. There are many forms of arthritis with osteoarthritis being the most common, unlike the rarer rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is also described as degenerative joint disease or 'wear and tear'.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints is worn down as a result of wear and tear, aging, injury or misuse. It can be due to increased forces on a functional joint or normal forces on a dysfunctional joint over time. Osteoarthritis also includes loss of cartilage, overgrowth of bone and the formation of bony spurs. This causes the bones under the cartilage to rub together, resulting in pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joint. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but most often occurs in the hips, knees, hands or the spine.
The typical symptoms of OA are:
• Joint pain
• Morning stiffness
• Buckling of the leg while walking
• Instability and loss of function or flexibility
To diagnose osteoarthritis, an x-ray would be needed and possibly a blood test to rule out other forms of arthritis. A chiropractor can interpret your x-rays and may diagnose you with having OA. A patient may also be sent to have a Bone Density scan in order to see if there is any weakness in the bones, such as osteoporosis.
Chiropractors cannot reverse osteoarthritis, but can help treat the symptoms. These symptoms arise from joints moving incorrectly/aberrantly and so a chiropractor would aim to re-introduce movement to that area. If we take the spine for example, chiropractors can do manipulation or mobilization of the joints, either side of the vertebra, so allowing them to glide over each other more easily. You can imagine that if you keep a joint still and do not move it, it will stiffen and cause the soft tissues, such as muscles and ligaments around it, to tighten and lose flexibility as well. Gentle, controlled movement helps stimulate the fluid in the joints and relaxes the soft tissues around it. Soft tissue techniques on the muscles may be performed and appropriate exercise advice given. However, the type of treatment provided depends on the age of the patient and medical history.
Glucosamine has, among other supplements such as Omega 3 (or essential fatty acids), been shown to have a positive effect on those people suffering from osteoarthritis by reducing pain and stiffness. In order to complement treatment and for long term care, your chiropractor may advise you to take this as a supplement. If you've been told you have a 'degenerating spine' that is causing your pain, then visit a chiropractor. If you leave it to get stiffer, it will most likely get worse. Again, osteoarthritis is a natural part of aging, therefore something can be done to ease the symptoms that come with a 'degenerating spine'.