By Jay Herrera, DPT
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Close Up Of Senior Man Suffering With Arthritis

What is Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis is defined as inflammation of a joint, and surrounding tissues. There are as many as 100 varieties of arthritis. According to the Center for Disease Control arthritis affects more than 54 million people.  Osteoarthritis is degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. It most often affect people as they grow older. It causes pain and stiffness. The most commonly affected joints include the hip, knee, and fingers and toes joints, although other sites may also be involved.

What are the causes of osteoarthritis?

OA is caused by damage or breakdown of joint cartilage between bones. Genetics plays a role in the gradual wear down cartilage deterioration. Repeated injury and prolonged work postures, or jobs with repeated vibrations may lead to OA. Severe obesity may also affect certain joints e.g. knees. Smoking is considered a risk factor. 

What are the symptoms associated with arthritis?

Typically arthritis includes pain and stiffness of a join, and surrounding tissues, affecting the cartilage and joint ligaments. Sometimes OA is observable as in the hand, with visible reddening, swelling,   and contorted or knotty appearance. X-ray, CT scan or MRI may also demonstrate joint changes. It should be noted however, that NOT all signs on x-ray, are painful joints.  Some arthritic joints may be totally pain free. Pain ranges from mild to moderate or severe. Chronic or severe cases may affect activities of daily living and lead to incapacitation or disabilities.

Type of treatments self care vs. medical vs. conservative or alternative care interventions.

Self- care: avoid or minimize precipitation activity, e.g. modify sports as necessary.  However, it is noted that exercise or targeted physical activity helps improve joint function in OA. Beneficial exercises include a) muscles strengthening, e.g. light weights b) flexibility with rubber bands, or c) balancing exercises.  Consider light stretches, walking, bicycling ,  yoga or Tai-Chi.

Medical care include over the counter medication, prescription medication e.g. for RA or in severely advanced cases surgery. Surgery should be a consideration if all other conservative approaches have been tried and not effective.

Alternative care includes: 

Chiropractic- spinal and joint manipulation, Physical therapy- exercise and posture modification, and acupuncture may provide relief for properly selected patient..

Chiropractic care for OA:  

Spinal manipulation (SMT) methods help target and improve joint function. Chiropractic SMT methods often are also coupled with  exercise, body and posture modification, dietary advice, and with physiotherapy modalities such as laser light, electric stimulation and ultrasound. SMT will not stop or reverse arthritis but can offer relief for some people with OA.

Acupuncture for OA: 

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method by placing needles at mapped points offer. Acupuncture can relieve pain by increasing production of endorophins, which are chemicals in pain reduction cycle. There are several studies which have demonstrated slight pain reduction for OA .

Physical medicine approaches include light stretching exercises, walking, pool therapy, Pilates, yoga or flowing movement methods such as Tai-chi.  Any exercise method requires consistency and regular routines. When arthritis flares avoid precipitating activity. Modify the exercise or change routine.  Exercises are not cures but are most helpful in allowing the arthritis sufferer to be active in daily life activities.

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