Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that is occurring with greater frequency as the population ages, along with the skyrocketing rates of obesity that contribute to osteoarthritis by causing unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. Chiropractic care can help those who suffer from osteoarthritis by realigning the joints so they move properly, slowing their degeneration.
A normally functioning joint moves easily, supported by a cushion of firm, rubbery cartilage that allows the bones to slide smoothly over one another. Osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown in the cartilage of the joint, which allows the bones to rub together as they move, leading to pain, stiffness and swelling.
It is estimated that 50% of the population over age 55 has some form of osteoarthritis. As a person ages the content of water in the cartilage decreases, hastening its breakdown. Some tissue from the breakdown of this cartilage can be released into the synovial fluid of the joint capsule, causing inflammation. Though any of the body's joints may be affected, the most common complaints are of pain in the knees, hips and hand joints, the ones that bear the greatest load and do the most work.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, swelling, stiffness and crepitus, which is a term for the clicking or popping sound the joint makes when the ends of the bones in the joint rub together due to an insufficient cushion of cartilage. The first sign you may have osteoarthritis is frequently waking with "morning stiffness" in your joints that gradually improves as the day goes on. Pain may become worse when you are active, improving with rest.
Though there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are things you can do to slow its advance and alleviate the pain. The least invasive treatments involve changes to diet and lifestyle, along with chiropractic care. Eating whole fresh foods and losing weight can take much of the pressure and stress off your joints. In addition, regular light exercise can strengthen the muscles that support the joints. Exercise can also improve range-of-motion, balance and posture. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for those with osteoarthritis, as it allows you to exercise without putting stress on your joints.
A trained chiropractor can use a variety of safe and gentle methods to return your joints to proper alignment, which will help alleviate pain without having to resort to taking excessive pain medications. Studies have shown that chiropractic treatment can increase range of motion, improve joint coordination, relax tense muscles and reduce pain. A chiropractor can also recommend the best exercises and stretches targeted to your specific needs.