BOO! A scary word… ARTHRITIS! What does it mean?

Very often, when our patients are hurting, they will tell us that it is due to their arthritis. WHAT does that word even mean? Who told them they have arthritis? How can arthritis be treated and why does it hurt so much? 

Arthritis is one of the most overused words that doctors (medical doctors, chiropractors, radiologists etc.) use when reading an x-ray. Arthritis is not actually a single disease, but an informal way to discuss the pain or degeneration of a joint. 

The most common type of arthritis is OSTEOARTHRITIS, which happens with normal wear and tear of a joint, and can be related to age or a previous injury of the joint. When the cartilage (the cushion on the end of your bone), starts to wear down, which can cause pain, swelling and stiffness.

When you get an x-ray of your spine, your doctor can often see the degenerative changes in the joints; the wearing away of the cartilage cushion on the end of your bones. The presence of this degention does not mean that you should feel pain. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about arthritis. 

On the x-ray, there may be less space between the bones, or little bony outgrowths, but this is simply how your bone adapts to having less cartilage around it. Bodies are amazing at adapting to change! Just because you have less cartilage in your joint does not mean that the joint will hurt, or that it will cause you problems. 

Just like any other bones in your body, these bones will function the best when they are in proper alignment. This will allow the joints to function better, and allow you to have better, less painful movement. Regular chiropractic care can help maintain better alignment of your joints to help them function optimally.

Movement is also extremely important in a joint that has some normal degeneration. When you move, there is more normal joint fluid that pumps through your joint space. This helps to lubricate and give nutrition to the cartilage and bone in the area. Sometimes, the degeneration in a joint is severe and requires surgery (as per the advice of your medical doctor or orthopedic specialist). With proper chiropractic care, improvement of your range of motion and reduction of your pain can sometimes help to postpone or avoid surgery. If surgery is required, the same rules for pain management apply while waiting: Good alignment and gentle motion are key.