This blog is brought to you by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, in partnership with the Arthritis Society.
Cindy Stephen is a 61-year-old Calgarian, professional communicator, mother of six and grandmother of seven. Below is her experience as someone who suffers from arthritis and uses chiropractic treatments to help alleviate the symptoms.
Many people my age have arthritis in a variety of joints.
Folks over 60 who have led active lives find themselves with arthritis of the knee or hips, maybe a touch in the joint of the thumb or in the ankles. Professional athletes are prone to arthritis in their shoulders and elbows from years of repetitive motion activities like shooting pucks, throwing balls or taking hits from other players.
The arthritis I suffer from, in the back of my neck and lower spine, came from decades of sitting at a desk job, bad posture and giving birth to six children. My issues with pain began in my mid-30s; by the time I was in my late 40s it was difficult to get out of a chair or car. By my mid-50s I began to experience pain in my legs and walking up stairs was difficult. At that point, I consulted with a chiropractor. It was he who not only found the arthritis through an X-ray but was able to explain all the muscle and ligament dysfunction that caused it in the first place.
There are over 100 types of arthritis.
Two you may have heard of are Osteoarthritis (OA) which is a degenerative, wear-and-tear type of arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) which is inflammatory; an auto-immune response which can affect people of any age. I have OA, and the good news is that with proper treatment and management many types of OA can be prevented.
When I was 20, I had a boyfriend who pulled a chair out from under me as I was sitting down to dinner at a fancy restaurant. I landed hard on my rear end. (He landed hard on his when I dumped him the next day).
I suffered pain in my tail bone for years afterward. Doctors took X-rays and saw no break, yet I had pain in my backside for years afterward, especially during each pregnancy. What no one was able to detect was that the true injury was to the ligaments around the sacroiliac joint, which were stretched because of the fall.
Loose ligaments combined with prolonged sitting, poor posture, the aging process and inactivity meant the muscles surrounding the joint in my lower back weren’t doing their job of holding my body in position. Or, as my chiropractor says, “ligamentous laxity which allows painful abnormal motion”. Despite the damage occurring in the lower back, my hips were out of place which created more pain and stiffness while walking.
Flash forward 40 years later:
My chiropractor detected the arthritis in my spine. It might have been prevented if the true damage from my fall had been discovered, if I had practised better posture while sitting at my desk or in front of the television and if I had maintained a consistent exercise program and kept active.
Today, I visit the chiropractor twice a month for regular adjustments. He says my ligaments can be repaired through surgery if it gets to that point, in consultation with my family physician, but with exercise the muscles in my back can be strengthened to better support my spine, and daily walking will assist with the muscles in my hips and upper legs.
My chiropractor also uses Active Release Therapy on the muscles around my lower back and hips which have been impacted by poor ligament structure.
My OA isn’t reversible at this point but chiropractic helps.
I’m able to slow the progression of the disease by keeping up in my chiropractic appointments and following his advice to keep active. It assists with reducing pain, because my chiropractor aligns my spine which decreases the stress that aggravates the pain generated by the arthritic joints.
When the spine isn’t aligned properly, there’s increased stress. When everything is in alignment, the stress is reduced and there is less pressure on the joints.
One of the biggest benefits for me of chiropractic care is the increased range of motion I experience. OA is uncomfortable – I’ve had years of stiffness which I attributed to growing older, not with how my body was functioning mechanically.
As you age, degeneration of your joints can begin silently and your body can begin to compensate for it slowly until suddenly, the pain creeps up on you.
Chiropractic care won’t stop you from getting older, but it can certainly help you from feeling old!
If it hurts, see a chiropractor.
Chiropractors are educated to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent problems of the spine and muscloskeletal (MSK) system (joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves).
While there is no cure for arthritis, chiropractors can help manage the chronic pain associated with the condition, as well as work to restore and maximize the function of an arthritic joint. The goal is to help arthritis pain sufferers improve their overall health and well-being so that they may return to the activities they enjoy.
Consult with your chiropractor, or click here to find one near you.
For more information about how chiropractic can change pain and help arthritis, as well a tip for how you can manage the symptoms of arthritis, try this easy-to-print document.