by: Andrea Mills DC
A question I get frequently is: “Why should I see a chiropractor for my arthritis symptoms? I get a massage regularly and my doctor can send me to a physical therapist.”
It’s a great question and the underlying misconceptions about chiropractic care are glaring. I’ve said it before; the chiropractic profession has done a horrible job explaining to the public why we do what we do and most people think we are pain specialists. I hope after reading this you will understand why chiropractic, physical therapy and massage can and should all be part of your arthritis symptom management.
What is osteoarthritis? It’s wear and tear or degeneration of the joints due to an injury or improper motion or alignment over time. The bones rub against each other, since the cushioning material between them is gone, causing pain, swelling, redness and stiffness. The supporting structures (the muscles, tendons, and ligaments) all have a harder job to do because the joint is damaged; they must work harder to stabilize the joint. This can cause muscle pain and imbalances that then affect the rest of the limb or spine if the arthritis symptoms are in the neck or back.
Remember, that the body is one unit. Anything affecting one part of it will impact the rest of you. Just like one low tire on a car will cause the other tires to wear out faster, one damaged joint in the body can cause the others to do more work and thus wear out faster.
Chiropractors work on the spine because it houses the nervous system, your master control of everything. The brain sends signals to every cell and regulates every function of your body and it does so by sending messages down the spine and out the nerves. Chiropractors adjust the spine to correct misalignments between the vertebrae that can decrease those messages. A very crude analogy (an inaccurate analogy, as well, but it is a great visual) is that of a hose with a heavy rock on it. The rock keeps the water from flowing freely. Misalignments of the spine keep your nervous system from flowing freely.
A fantastic side benefit of chiropractic adjustments is often relief from arthritis symptoms; but the reason for the adjustment is better functioning of your nervous system. When your cells have full nerve supply, they can do their job better, making you a healthier version of you.
Now here is where massage and physical therapy come in. Attached to all the bones are muscles. And your body has an ideal alignment that distributes pressure evenly so that joints do not wear out faster than they should. Massage therapy is designed to help keep those muscles soft and pliable. Physical therapists are experts at looking at your body and designing exercises and treatment programs that address the balance component.
Both of these professions do more than that of course, just like chiropractors do more than just adjust the spine. But for simplicities sake, I’m talking just about the big picture for each profession.
So if you have arthritis symptoms and your MD prescribes pain relievers (which can cause bleeding of the gut and other dangerous side effects), consider going to a chiropractor, massage therapist and physical therapist instead. This trio of healthcare practitioners can truly change your life, rather than just masking the pain.