Can Arthritis Be Helped by Chiropractic Treatment?

Craig W. Brue, D.C.

“I ache all over. I’m so stiff in the morning. My joints hurt. What’s going on with me?” You are probably experiencing some form of arthritis. The simple definition of arthritis is pain in a joint, but the types and causes of arthritis and various treatments for it are complex.

Research has identified over 100 different types of arthritis. Some types of arthritis are simply associated with the aging process, while others are secondary to other diseases and conditions. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, lupus, gout, juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis of the spine, and fibromyalgia.

The type of arthritis that affects almost the entire senior population is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is basically the wearing out of the joint space or cartilage pads between the bony surfaces. Osteoarthritic changes, including bone spurs and disc degeneration, are commonly found after serious spinal injuries or long-standing spinal imbalances.

The next most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid, which is an auto-immune disease where the person’s antibodies attack the joint (and possibly other tissues as well). This can occur at a young, middle, or older age, whenever the body is triggered to produce the joint attacking antibodies. Rheumatoid arthritis often is characterized by disabling pain with joints that are distorted or completely destroyed.

Can chiropractic care help some forms of arthritis? The answer is a definite yes. This is especially true with osteoarthritis and disc degeneration. Arthritic spinal joints often become fixated, or stuck, because of misalignment and biomechanical changes. Chiropractors work on the affected areas of the spine to restore motion and mobility by using specific spinal adjustments to free up those areas of altered spinal biomechanics that are producing pain. Chiropractic treatment is especially helpful for those patients that are experiencing back or neck pain that is associated with stenosis (pinching and narrowing of nerve openings), disc degeneration, and restricted ranges of spinal mobility.

Many chiropractors now are utilizing very gentle tapping instruments, an “activator” or electronic “impulse,” for specific spinal adjustments. This type of precision spinal care is very safe and effective for spinal arthritis because there is no “snapping or cracking” of the vertebrae.

Chiropractors also will evaluate your posture and lifestyle, making specific recommendations that may be very beneficial in your care. I always tell my patients to do the most conservative care first. Try gentle spinal adjustments, postural changes, simple stretching exercises (walking and swimming), structural supports, and ice before you consider addictive narcotic drugs, expensive imaging tests, and corticosteroid injections.

The best approach to the management of arthritic pain always should include a great chiropractor on your health team. You also may need to get advice on the foods that tend to cause inflammation in the body. Drugs will help to reduce inflammation, but the long-term side effects may outweigh the benefits.

Dr. Craig W. Brue is an author, lecturer, and chiropractic physician in SaddleBrooke.