The term “arthritis” is a broadly used, and commonly misunderstood term. For this section we will discuss the most common form of arthritis, which is osteoarthritis (also called degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease, DJD, or spondylosis in the spine). Degenerative arthritis affects almost everyone to some extent over the age of 50, and for this reason we often say, “it is just part of getting old.” Unfortunately many people accept unnecessary amounts of pain thinking they are just too old. Degenerative arthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint begins to break down causing stress to the sensitive bone tissue the cartilage lines and protects. This leads to a gradual breakdown of the joint. Boney ridges (called osteophytes or bone spurs), then develop due to the abnormal mechanics of the joint. These bone spurs can put pressure to soft tissues or delicate nerves which can affect the function of internal organs. Given enough time the cartilage will wear away completely and the joint will fuse. Causing factors of arthritis include subluxation, past trauma, occupation, activities, weight, diet, and heredity. Symptoms of DJD range from slight stiffness to severe pain.
Chiropractic and Arthritis
It is interesting to note that osteoarthritis always develops in specific joints, and not evenly through the entire body. For instance a person may have one arthritic knee, but not two, or they may have arthritis in the lower neck, but not the entire spine. If degenerative arthritis were simply part of getting older it would affect all joints in the body equally. The majority of elderly people still have many joints in their spine and body that have no arthritis at all. The reason only some joints are affected is because of increased stresses to those joints resulting from biomechanical problems. One such common problem is a spinal subluxation (abnormal position and motion in a spinal joint producing nerve irritation). With a subluxation the joint loses its full range of motion and in essence becomes fixated or “stuck”. In each cartilage-containing joint a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid exists to keep the cartilage healthy. It works much like motor oil in your car. Movement in the joint replenishes the supply of synovial fluid. A stuck joint will have a decreased production of this lubricating fluid causing the cartilage to become dry, brittle, and lead to breakdown. Chiropractic helps to reestablish normal motion and mechanics in arthritic joints allowing for increased range of motion and slowing of the degenerative process. Studies have even shown a reversal in degenerative arthritis through chiropractic care.
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