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osteoarthritis-and-chiropractic

Overcoming Osteoarthritis

 

Summary:

 

  • Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that causes pain and stiffness.
  • Exercise is a safe and effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
  • Chiropractors play an important role in reducing symptoms, improving mobility, and empowering patients back to their activities of daily living.

 

What is OA?

 

Osteoarthritis (OA) or “Joint degeneration” can be scary terms, as they tend to carry negative connotations with them in society. People may believe that this is the sole cause of their pain, and this means that they can’t do the normal activities they love. This insight aims to shed some light on OA, and how a chiropractor can help manage it.

 

Surrounding our joints, we have cartilage that acts as a protective coating between two bones, which allows them to glide smoothly on each other. As we age, naturally the cartilage can’t heal as well as it used to, and starts to wear down, resulting in inflammation. This is a complex process, and can be contributed to by several factors such as:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Occupation
  • Diet
  • Metabolic health conditions (e.g. Diabetes)
  • Past injuries

 

OA is a common condition affecting approximately 3.6 million Australians, and this is predicted to rise to 5.4 million by 2030 (1). OA can occur in any joint, but it most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Symptoms include pain, stiffness (especially in the morning), swelling and crepitus (cracking sounds).

 

The relationship between OA and pain – Does it actually matter?

 

Recent evidence suggests that degenerative changes are extremely common in the spine, even among people that do not currently experience pain. For example, 68% of people aged 40 showed disc degeneration on their MRI scan, and this increased to 88% at 60 years (2). This has led to some people believing that it may not be an important factor for pain.

 

While some people may have mild to moderate degenerative changes and experience no pain, there is a relationship between more severe degenerative findings and pain in older age groups (3). This means that the older we get and the more severe the findings, the more likely OA may impact your life.

 

So, although degeneration is common, it can be a cause of pain and disability for specific people, to varying degrees. Therefore, everyone’s pain experience is different, and requires an individualised approach.

 

What is the best management for OA?

 

The treatment of OA depends on the severity of the condition and the persons symptoms. It is important to address OA using a holistic approach, put differently, treatments that encompass several interventions respond more effectively compared to individual treatments.

 

Here are some approaches that are recommended:

  1. Exercise/physical activity: Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling are a great place to start for people that don’t do a lot of exercise. Resistance training is also important to maintain and increase muscle strength and stability, which is increasingly important as we age.
  2. Self-management strategies: Heat packs, gentle stretching, or relaxation techniques are useful to help self-manage flare ups and keep you moving.
  3. Nutrition: Diets that are low-inflammatory such as the Mediterranean diet have been shown to be beneficial for people with OA (4)
  4. Pain relief medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and inflammation. Topical treatments such as creams or gels may be useful.
  5. Surgery: Joint replacement surgery may be considered in severe cases of OA, especially if other treatments have not been effective.

 

The role of a Chiropractor

 

Chiropractors can play an important role in helping to manage people with OA. By its nature, OA can fluctuate in its severity, so during flare ups, manual therapy techniques (find out more) can be useful to reduce symptoms and improve mobility. Your chiropractor can also advise you on how to modify certain activities that are difficult, and provide you with a plan to get back to doing the things you love to do.

 

Having OA doesn’t mean that you’re broken, or that you can’t do certain activities anymore. It just means that you may need to modify certain things in your life. If OA is impacting your ability to perform your normal daily activities, get in touch with the team at DMC Health and Wellness to help you manage.

 

References

  1. https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/what-is-arthritis/fastfacts/
  2. Brinjikji W, Luetmer PH, Comstock B, Bresnahan BW, Chen LE, Deyo RA, Halabi S, Turner JA, Avins AL, James K, Wald JT. Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. American journal of neuroradiology. 2015 Apr 1;36(4):811-6.
  3. Brinjikji W, Diehn FE, Jarvik JG, Carr CM, Kallmes DF, Murad MH, Luetmer PH. MRI findings of disc degeneration are more prevalent in adults with low back pain than in asymptomatic controls: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Neuroradiology. 2015 Dec 1;36(12):2394-9.
  4. Elma Ö, Yilmaz ST, Deliens T, Clarys P, Nijs J, Coppieters I, Polli A, Malfliet A. Chronic musculoskeletal pain and nutrition: where are we and where are we heading?. Pm&r. 2020 Dec;12(12):1268-78.

About the Authors

 

David-ChiroDavid McNaughton is a clinician, researcher and lecturer. He is the director and principal chiropractor at DMC Health & Wellness. He has an extensive background in the diagnosis and management of chronic pain. In addition to his clinical studies, David holds a Master’s of Research and PhD in Psychology. He regularly publishes his research in peer reviewed medical and psychology journals. David has taught both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Chiropractic and Psychology at Macquarie University.

 

Isaac-Searant-DMC-Chiro

Isaac Searant completed a Bachelor of Chiropractic Science and Master of Chiropractic at Macquarie University, and is currently enrolled in a Master of Research. His research aims to understand the clinical decisions health practitioners make about diagnostic imaging. His clinical interests include spinal pain (neck and back) and sporting injuries. Regardless of the condition, his goal as a chiropractor is to work collaboratively with patients.

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