Arthritis

Overview

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in America.  Each year, arthritis causes one million hospitalizations and almost 45 million doctor visits with an estimated cost of over $50 billion.  It is also one of the main culprits in missed days of work accounting for yet another $50 billion from lost earnings.

Arthritic joints are characterized by inflammation and pain.  There are over 100 different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid, psoriatic arthritis, and septic arthritis.  The most common form is osteoarthritis, otherwise known as degenerative joint disease.

Because joint cartilage does not contain free nerve endings, joint destruction is not often associated with pain until arthritis is considerably advanced. This is the reason why arthritis tends to be diagnosed so late in the disease process. With a majority of the protective cartilage now gone, the surfaces of the bones become exposed to gradual erosion, leading to continued swelling and joint destruction.

Arthritis can make it very difficult for an individual to remain physically active, contributing to an increased risk of obesity, high cholesterol or vulnerability to heart disease. Individuals with arthritis are also at increased risk of depression, which may be related to fear of worsening symptoms.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The most common symptoms of arthritis, regardless of the type, includes joint aches and pains due to stiffness and swelling.  Some types of arthritis can also affect organs. Arthritis is diagnosed based upon medical history, symptoms, and clinical examination. X-rays often show anatomic abnormalities such as joint space narrowing, bone spurs, and joint deformity.

Medical Treatment

Conventional medical treatment for arthritis focuses on reducing the load placed on joints via weight loss and increasing joint stability by building muscle strength. The pain associated with arthritis is most commonly treated with acetaminophen or other NSAID drugs. Since weight loss may be difficult, and exercise may be considered painful to many suffering with arthritis, drugs instinctively become the primary treatment for arthritic pain. This approach, however, exposes arthritis sufferers to the serious risks of liver and kidney damage. In addition, drugs offer only partial relief, and treatment with acetaminophen and NSAIDs completely fails to help the body rebuild damaged joint cartilage.

Acetaminophen is possibly the most widely used analgesic in America, where well over 25 billion doses are sold annually. Unintentional acetaminophen overdose hospitalizes over 15,000 people each year and is the leading cause of acute liver failure. NSAIDs are also widely used and potentially harmful with side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcer disease, high blood pressure, edema, and heart attack.

If arthritic pain is unable to be controlled with therapies like exercise and NSAIDs, treatment options may then include topical analgesics, corticosteroid injections, opioid narcotics, and total joint replacement surgery.

How We Can Help

It is well known that chiropractors are experts at manipulating and moving the joints of the body.

Joint manipulation helps break up scar tissue adhesions, reduces inflammation, and relieves pain - all symptoms of arthritis. Targeted nutritional interventions offer a variety of active compounds known to positively influence cartilage support in arthritis. Unlike medications, this approach does not cause side effects yet still offers defense against oxidative stress and inflammatory damage.