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Stiffness in the joints is a common condition that increases with aging. When the stiffness worsens to the point of being painful, arthritis may be the diagnosis. Arthritis is breakdown of normal cartilage caused by either excessive joint wear and tear or from an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body is actually fighting itself. This is what the term autoimmune means. Rheumatoid arthritis is usually occurs on both sides of the body. This means it occurs in both hands, both knees, etc. In contrast, the other form of arthritis, called degenerative arthritis, will usually occur on one side. This form of arthritis is chiefly due to wear and tear or repetitive injury to the same joint or joints.
It is important to use arthritic joints as disuse also leads to more arthritic changes; however, it is vital to not over stress an arthritic joint; otherwise, the swelling may significantly worsen. If you have either form of joint arthritis, your Doctor of Chiropractic should be consulted before you begin any exercise program or commit to any significant physically related lifestyle changes.
Chiropractors see many patients with degenerative arthritis. The spine is especially susceptible to this disorder. In fact, you may have the early signs of spinal degenerative arthritis but just have not noticed the symptoms yet. Simple palpation (feeling) of the vertebrae while the spine is slowly being moved can discover joints that do mot move as freely as other joints do. This is one finding that could lead to a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis. Another revealing procedure is a simple x-ray. A x-ray film can reveal the bony changes associated with either degenerative or rheumatic arthritis.
The treatment for the two types of arthritis is similar. Both require ice, passive motion (the practitioner moves the joint while the patient remains relaxed) and or the use of ultrasound to help control the swelling. Moist heat is also needed to help increase circulation. Paraffin wax baths are helpful for hands and wrists while moist hot packs are used for the spine, shoulders, and knees. Arthritic hips may require deep-heat sources like microwave or short-wave diathermy. This is because the hip joints are seated to deeply in the pelvis to reach with more commonly used therapies. Your chiropractor can provide, prescribe, or recommend these therapies as needed. The application of spinal and or extremity manipulation may also be used to help you gain control over your arthritic condition. Nutritional counseling, exercise instruction, and lifestyle changes may additional considerations during your course of care.