I asked one of my elderly patients how she had been feeling. She responded by saying that her old friend Arthur was in town visiting. When she saw my look of confusion, she laughed, and said “Arthur. You know… Arthur-itis.” She was referring to increased pain she was struggling with due to arthritis. Pretty funny.
What isn’t funny is that arthritis is the nation’s #1 cause of disability and affects nearly 60 million adults and 300,000 children. And there are over 100 types of arthritis. I see it in my practice every single day. While there are multiple types of arthritis, the most common, and the one I will discuss here, is osteoarthritis (OA). It is the kind that affects the joints, can cause stiffness and pain, and is often referred to as degenerative joint disease.
I believe OA is the most misunderstood diagnosis, and the word arthritis is the most overused word among older adults. It’s a catch-all term doctors throw out to explain aches and pains that their patients complain about, and people think it’s normal and just something they can expect to have to live with. So, you need to understand what it is and why it isn’t something that you should just expect to have.
It is true that as we age, the cartilage between the joints begins to wear down and dry out. This can cause stiffness and pain, and ultimately bone damage if not properly handled. But guess what? You have A LOT more control over your arthritis destiny than you’ve been led to believe.
The key thing to know is that arthritis isn’t something that just happens because of age. It is usually the result of an injury or trauma that was not properly cared for. When a joint gets injured, the body intelligently tightens up the muscles around that joint to protect it. While it does protect the joint, that lack of motion leads to less blood flow into the joint, leading to the cartilage starting to dry out and stiffen up. The longer the joint remains guarded and protected, the worse the cartilage will get. Eventually, the body realizes it needs to do more because it knows that it can’t just keep protecting the joint with tight muscles, so it intelligently begins to lay down bone to protect that joint. That bone formation is what doctors are talking about when they say the word arthritis.
The key is to remain mobile. Exercise and general movement are what keep the joints moving, hydrated, and healthy. Inactivity, which is rampant these days, is a huge contributor to the arthritis issues so many people are suffering with. Specific chiropractic care takes arthritis care one step further by working to improve the function of the exact joints affected by arthritis.
A few other things to know… you can have arthritis and NOT have pain. So, do not think that just because you have arthritis that you are doomed to a life of aches and pains. You can manage the arthritis and prevent it from becoming worse. Arthritis is not simply an age thing. Doctors always tell patients that the arthritis is from age, but when looking at an x-ray, if you look at the other joints, and they do not have arthritis, it cannot be age because all of the joints are the same age. And finally, taking medication for arthritis is futile. Yes, it may cut the pain, but it does NOTHING to change the function or health of the joint, so the arthritis continues to advance, while the medication merely masks the symptoms. This is why the medication eventually stops working, requiring higher and higher doses, and eventually different, stronger medication.
Your body is an amazing, self-healing, self-regulating miracle. It needs care and attention to function optimally. If you are suffering with arthritis in any joint, don’t fall for the lie that you are old and have to live with it. Get moving, exercise appropriately, and seek a detailed chiropractic evaluation. It’s worth it! Imagine life with less aches and pains. You don’t need or want friends like Arthur in your life.