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Chiropractic Feature Article

Arthritis Treatable, Preventable

Dr. Curt P. Summers DC

Many thousands of people, both young and old, suffer from pain and disability because they have arthritis. Fortunately, many cases of arthritis are treatable and even preventable. It is very possible to have an active, productive and pain-free life despite the presence of arthritis.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Of the variety, osteoarthritis is the most common. It is this form of arthritis that I have selected for this column.

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, has been called the articular cartilage wear and tear disease. It is characterized by a degeneration of the joint cartilage, which forms the weight-bearing surface of the joint; changes in the synovial membrane, which provides lubrication for the joint; and boney outgrowth called spurs around the outside of the joint. OA can arise in any joint, but occurs most often in the weight-bearing joints found in the spine, knees and hips.

OA affects over 40 million Americans; in fact, almost everyone over the age of 50 has a touch of it. In many people it causes pain and disability. Other symptoms include morning stiffness, which is relieved by activity, a grinding sensation when turning the head and neck and limitation of movement. Cold weather and lowered barometric pressures (changes in the weather) may aggravate the joint symptoms.

Trauma such as falls, automobile accidents and sports injuries may result in an acceleration of this normal aging process. Stress can also play a role as it causes a tightening of the muscles. This may misalign a joint and cause uneven pressures on the joint cartilage. Personal habits may also play a part in speeding up this process. For example, if you are overweight, our joints are constantly overloaded. If you work long hours without taking breaks, you may not be nourishing your joints with necessary movement or rest. Poor posture or repeated movements can set you up for OA because this repeatedly stresses the same area. Avoid soft chairs or recliners and sleep on a firm mattress to properly support the spine.

OA is considered to be the result of excessive wear and tear or stress on the joints. If a joint is improperly aligned, there will be an uneven distribution of weight on the joint cartilage, which causes additional wear and tear.

Its pressure can be a sign that the spinal column is unbalanced. The spurring and lipping (bone growths) occurs because the body is trying to strengthen an area by building up more bone. Chiropractic procedures can realign the joint so there is an even weight distribution thus reducing abnormal cartilage wear and improving its normal mechanical function. Because of improved function, the pain is usually eliminated. Nutrition and various physiotherapy modalities may be used to enhance healing and reduce pain.

With proper treatment, exercise and lifestyle changes, it is possible to live a productive life, even if arthritis is present.

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