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Osteoarthritis: Can Chiropractors Help?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a very common joint disease. It is characterized by stiffness, pain and sometimes swelling around the affected joint. It is also referred to as “wear and tear” or degenerative joint disease.

Like most non life-threatening conditions it is mainly treated by “tea and sympathy”. If it becomes too painful and disabling your GP will be very likely to give you pain killers (eg: Paracetamol, Co-codamol) and anti-inflammatory drugs (eg: Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Celecoxib). To alleviate pain and improve function physiotherapists and chiropractors use physical therapy.

But how does one become osteoarthritic? Well, if you are not a vegetarian and pay a visit to your family butcher you may have noticed that, where the bones meet to form a joint, bone extremities are white, shiny and very smooth. This represents the cartilage, which provides a rubbery, lubricated cushion. Cartilage allows the two bones to glide easily with one another during joint movement.

In individuals with OA, the cartilage gradually wears away with the result that, over time, the two bones start “rubbing” against each other. This in turn will gradually cause pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling around the joint.  OA commonly affects the fingers, knees, hips and spine. Although OA has a higher incidence in an older population, it still can affect younger people by trauma or overuse of a joint (e.g in athletes).

In order to establish whether a patient is suffering from OA a thorough medical history and an in depth physical examination needs to be performed. Plain X-rays films, to confirm the diagnosis and to assess the extent of OA, may also be required.

Once the chiropractor has ruled out other possibilities for the pain and the disability and a diagnosis of osteoarthritis has been confirmed a treatment plan can be drawn. In addition to a programme of pure joint and muscle rehabilitation patient suffering from OA may be advised to modify their lifestyle, as exercise and diet are important factors in the treatment of OA.

Unfortunately, most sufferers consult only once they have lost a substantial amount of joint mobility and muscle power. Chiropractors and physiotherapists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis. If you think you suffer from joint “wear and tear” why not consult one?


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