Arthritis is a loosely used term. Many of my new patients have been told by their primary doctors that their aches and pains are due to "arthritis." This word "arthritis" covers a lot of territory and comes in many different forms. "Itis" means inflammation of, and "arth" means joint; so the literal interpretation is joint inflammation. There are two major categories of arthritis:

1. Inflammatory
2. Non-inflammatory

Inflammatory arthritis is the more serious of the two categories. This group includes rheumatoid arthritis which has an actual blood component called "RA factor." This is the arthritis that leads to the fingers being deformed toward the little finger side or ulnar bone, called ulnar deviation. There are other manifestations, but this finger deformation is the most classic sign.

Another form of inflammatory arthritis is suppurative. This kind of arthritis occurs when an infection from a cut or abscess spreads into a joint causing inflammation of that joint. Other forms of inflammatory arthritis include gouty arthritis (which most often starts in the big toe), psoriatic arthritis, and dysenteric arthritis.

Non-inflammatory arthritis is commonly called osteoarthritis and/or degenerative joint disease. This is usually the arthritis that doctors are talking about when someone has a chronic complaint of pain in a specific joint. There is a genetically transmitted form of this arthritis which also leads to nodular lumps on the joints just below the fingernails, called Heberden’s nodes. Osteoarthritis was once thought to be caused by too much movement in a joint causing it to wear out. Now research has indicated that lack of motion in the joint can cause osteoarthritis as well. To make lab rats arthritic for research, scientists bind the legs of the rats so their joints cannot be moved. After a few weeks of not using their limbs, the joints become arthritic. It is because of this finding that the wearing of cervical collars should only be done in cases of severe ligamentous damage and joint instability. The collars should be taken off as soon as possible, otherwise, like the rats, arthritis will infiltrate the joints of the neck due to restriction of vertebral motion.

Can chiropractic help arthritis?

Yes. Chiropractic is more effective with some forms of arthritis than others. It is important to remember that the purpose of chiropractic is to maximize spinal and nervous system function. Normalizing nerve communication enhances organ and tissue function. If the arthritis is the result of altered organ performance, correction of nerve flow may restore organ function reversing the arthritis. This would be more likely in the inflammatory type arthritides, which are usually a result of organ dysfunction somewhere in the body.

Chiropractic is probably most effective with osteoarthritis, which is a consequence of altered joint function and low grade inflammation. Chiropractic restores joint movement, diminishing the effects of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is often initiated from trauma of some kind. It may be an acute type trauma, such as a car collision or sports injury. Micro trauma can lead to degenerative changes also. Holding the phone between your shoulder and ear or watching TV in bed with your head propped up can, over the years, lead to joint injury and arthritic infiltration.

Many researchers now suspect low grade inflammation to have a large influence on the outcome and extensiveness of osteoarthritis. This inflammation is driven mostly by diet. It is therefore important to eat a diet that counteracts inflammation. A good web site for learning about what to eat can be accessed at: deflame.com.

The next time someone says their doctor diagnosed them as having arthritis, ask them what kind of arthritis. Most people are not aware there is a difference. Chiropractic helps in almost all cases of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis. Please inform people suffering from arthritis that there is a drugless option for their condition. Approximately 16,000 people die each year from over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Motrin and aspirin. Chiropractic is one of the safest forms of primary health care. Tell your friends to give me a call if they would like to discuss their condition. Thank you for your help.

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