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Can Chiropractic Help Arthritis?

Posted in Back Pain Disorders, Neck Pain Disorders on Dec 01, 2019

Can Chiropractic Help Arthritis?

Can upper cervical chiropractic help arthritis?

"I’ve tried everything for my arthritis, but nothing’s worked.”

Just because you have arthritis does not mean that your pain is caused by arthritis.

As strange as it sounds, arthritis and the pain of “arthritis”  are NOT always the same thing.

Let me explain.

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Everyday in our practice, we see people who have varying degrees of arthritis in their necks. Some mild. Some moderate. Some severe.

And I can tell you based on the research and also my own experience that the degree and severity of arthritis is not the #1 predictor for pain.

 

  • We have some people that are near bone-on-bone arthritis, and the only thing that they say is that they are stiff in the morning.
  • We have other people with near-normal necks, and yet they are in near-constant agony

 

We even had a GP once remark that they didn’t see any need for a patient to get x-rays or to even receive care because it was probably just arthritis.

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Are you kidding me?!

Just because you have arthritis does not mean that there’s nothing you can do about the pain or symptoms you experience. Because the pain of “arthritis” may actually have nothing to do with arthritis itself.

In this article, I want to  share with you some valuable information about arthritis and the pain of arthritis, and how even i you think you’ve tried everything already to help your arthritis that there may be an approach that could help that focuses on the base of your skull and the alignment of the top bones in your neck.

“Is arthritis the cause of pain or an effect?”

Osteoarthrosis is the technical term for the process of degenerative damage that occurs between two bones. In the spine between vertebral bodies, it is known also as spondylosis.

“Arthritis" is the common term for when inflammation due to arthritis produces pain. Arthritis also comes in many additional varieties including rheumatoid arthritis, erosive arthritis, seropositive arthritis (including conditions like psoriatic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis).

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In this particular article, we are referring to degenerative arthritis, which is the result of biomechanics stress on the joints of your body, like rust on a bike that you’ve left out in the rain for too long.

However, the principles here also apply to many of the other forms of arthritis too!

And I hope you caught a distinction I’ve make already.

It is not the arthrosis or the degenerative process itself that causes pain. It is when there is inflammation. 

… But inflammation of what? 

The obvious answer is, “The bone.” However, inflammation is actually a neurophysiological process. Moreover, it is actually a normal part of the repair process.

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So the question arises: if the pain or “arthritis” is associated with higher levels of inflammation, is the the bone damage itself that causes the pain? Or is it the inflammation?

You could also take it one step further by asking the chicken-and-egg question: did the arthritis cause the inflammation? Or did the inflammation cause the arthritis? 

As subtle as this point may be, it is very important when we are considering arthritis as the CAUSE or EFFECT.

So much of the common arthritis treatments from arthritis specialists are focused on pain-management. Well, if pain is the effect, is there any way of addressing the cause?

Now, when it comes to arthritis, there is a certain degree of physical damage that has occurred. Unless you have a cure for 1) gravity, 2) time and 3) the physical stresses of daily life, the odds of that arthritis simply going away are pretty low.

However, that does NOT mean that you are powerless to improve the quality of your life..

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They key when it comes to addressing arthritis then is to look ate the factors that can impact on inflammation.

And not just in the diet (even though that is a big part of it). It is the physical stress that impacts on your joints.

“Is arthritis a bone problem or a nerve problem?”

Remember the metaphor we used for arthritis? That it is like leaving a bike to rust out in the rain?

When it comes to arthritis in the neck and spine especially, this damage is due to years or even decades of physical wear-and-tear.

Arthritis is NOT simply something that occurs because you get older.

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If that was true, then everyone would have arthritis in their spines as they age. And it would be the same in all parts of their bodies.

This is simply not true.

Usually, when we see arthritis in the spine, it is focuses in a few key areas: the lower neck at the level of C5-C6 and the lower back at L4-L5. it is because these particular weight-bearing areas are most susceptible to mechanical pressure.

These areas are also the ones that if/when you suffer some type of injury are commonly going to absorb the extra stress. Then, over those years and decades, the bones remodel themselves to adapt to the stress.

However, like all things, they can only handle so much before something eventually gives.

In other words, the degenerative arthritis process is usually happening long before people often experience arthritis pain.

Again, this would imply that the pain associated with arthritis may not always be directly due to the bone problem itself. Instead, it suggests that something is irritating the nerves associated with those areas fo the spine.

And it is that irritation that may ultimately be responsible for the pain of arthritis. Not the bone itself!

“How can an old injury lead to arthritis?”

When it comes to arthritis and the pain or arthritis as a nerve problem, we usually need to look the past for old injuries that you thought you got away with. Or maybe simply years or physical abuse.

Let’s consider a few types of injuries. There are the injuries where you could fracture or dislocate things.

There are injuries where you suffer no more than a surface scratch or bleeding.

But then somewhere in between are injuries that can cause internal muscle and ligament damage: so deep that it never comes to the surface. And often the variety that did cause you pain, stiffness or soreness for a few days … but then went away.

The reason this type of “pain” actually goes away is not because everything is okay, but because your brain has a selective filter that learns to ignore things … including pain!

If you have children or spend much time around children, you will recognise this phenomenon that you have learned to ignore the “normal” sounds or playing, crying or even screaming children … at least until they get so loud or obnoxious that you simply can’t ignore them anymore.

Your body and brain community similarly. It is only when the nerve problem escalates to a certain crescendo that it enters your conscious awareness.

While this might seem like an odd strategy, it is actually necessary for human survival. If your brain did not have the ability to selectively ignore pain signals from every bump or bruise you’ve ever experiences, you would likely be in 100% pain 100% of the time. 

Life must go on!

The trade is that over the years, these very same adaptations eventually come back to haunt us.

That is why it is believed that arthritis is actually the problem. The reality is that arthritis may only be the EFFECT of the original injury.

And when we are looking at the spine, the types of precursor injuries that we are talking about are injuries that may have caused micro-tears in the muscle and ligaments that support your vertebrae, causing them to move ever-so-slightly from their normal centre of gravity.

Even misalignments of a millimetre or two can be significant when you consider the cumulative effect of this extra stress over the years or decades.

Again, it is not because of the bones, per se. It is actually because your spine contains an immense number of nerve fibres associated with position sense, pressure and pain.

It is when these nerves are triggered that they send your brain the abnormal information, which it interprets as pain.

So what could be some of the old injuries? Odds are, they are the ones that you have forgotten:

 

  • A sports tackle or concussion
  • A low speed car accident
  • A hard trip over a kerb or on a hike
  • A fall from a ladder

Or maybe even younger!

  • Falling from a swing or slide
  • Hitting your head on the table when you were learning to walk or ride a bike
  • Crashing when you were skating or skiing
  • Hitting your head on the bottom of a pool

 

The potential list is endless, and in some ways a moot point unless you have a time machine to undo the actual event.  The question you have now is, “What are you going to do about it?”

A different approach for helping people with arthritis

Pain medication. Anti-inflammatories. A natural, low inflammation diet including tumeric, vegetables, etc. Stress-relief. Meditation. And so forth.

If you are like most of our clients, you prefer natural healthcare when it is possible. But when you simply need relief you are willing to do whatever it takes to feel normal again.

So odds are that if you suspect you have arthritis that you are already doing combinations of these different things.

But let me ask you: are you taking care of your neck?

Your neck is the literal lifeline between your brain and your body. It is how the two parts communicate.

In particular, it is the top bones in your neck - called the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) - that support the weight of your skull (3-5Kg) and also provide for the majority of the movement between your head and neck.

Because this area has so much flexibility, it is also the area that is very commonly injured from any of those things I mentioned earlier that can lead to arthritis late in life.

Now, the C1 and C2 have unique function in your body because they protect your brainstem, which is the master control centre for your entire nerve system. If these bones are misaligned, they may be able to produce physical tension that affects normal nerve function and/or the flow of fluid around the brainstem.

For this reason, what we find often happens is that you body compensates by shifting your body posture in order to maintain the relative balance of your head on your shoulder. However, these common compensations including forward head carriage, which has been associated with early development of arthritis plus a huge array of symptoms that may or may not have anything to do with the arthritis:

 

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Jaw pain and TMJ disorders
  • Shoulder pain
  • Mid and even low back pain
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

 

The list goes on! So what can you do about it?

Here is where a unique approach to healthcare called Blair upper serve icily care may be able to help people with arthritis. 

Blair upper cervical care is a special division of chiropractic that does NOT use spinal manipulation, twisting or cracking. It is gentle, powerful and for people of all ages including people with arthritis.

The procedure involves a personalised, detailed analysis of your individual body structure, nerve function (using a test called paraspinal thermography) and 3D x-rays that help us find the exact direction and degree of misalignment in your neck.

One of the most common findings that we discover in people with arthritis are misalignments between the vertebrae where one of the bones has shifted forwards in position.

When the identify your condition, we put together a plan in order to work to restore ether normal alignment and movement through those joints as much as possible. … And again, without twisting or cracking the neck.

Our focus isn’t on treating the effects of arthritis. It is on balancing the alignment and motion of the bones in the top of the neck in order to allow the spine to move more freely. In that position, even if we can’t undo the damage of the arthritis, if we can get the inflammation off of the nerve receptors, then we may still be able to provide measurable arthritis pain relief.

Request a Free Consultation

Especially if you have tried lots of different things for arthritis over the years, I appreciate if you’ve like some more information.

I hope that you find the information in this article has made sense and resonates with you.  I’m sure also that you have a few questions about your individual condition.

If so, we would like to invite you to accept our invitation for a free 15 minute phone consultation to speak with one of our upper cervical chiropractic doctors where you can ask any questions you may have too decide if an exam or care might be right for you.

If so, you can click the Contact Us link on this page, or alternatively give us a ring at the office at 07 3188 9329.

Dr Jeffrey Hannah is our resident upper cervical chiropractic doctor, providing care for the North Lake sand greater Brisbane communities for over 10 years. Our practice is located in North Lakes to serve the local communities of Mango Hill, Narangba, Burpengary, Griffin, Aspley, Redcliffe, and Sandgate chiropractor.

At present, Dr Hannah is the only active certified Blair upper cervical chiropractor in Brisbane, and accepts clients from across the greater Brisbane area. (We wish that we had an upper cervical chiropractor 20 minutes from your front door.

At the moment, many of our clients travel 60-90 minuets in one direction, and so we do have processes in place to accomodate you if you are in need of upper cervical care but need to travel a bit).

We look forward to hearing from you and helping to the best of our abilities.

Atlas Health Australia - A passion and purpose for helping people live a better quality of life.

 

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Cramer GD, Fournier JT, Henderson CN, Wolcott CC. Degenerative changes following spinal fixation in a small animal model. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004;27(3):141-54.

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Mingels S, Dankaerts W, Granitzer M. Is There Support for the Paradigm 'Spinal Posture as a Trigger for Episodic Headache'? A Comprehensive Review. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2019 Mar 4;23(3):17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-019-0756-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30830498

Shahar D and Sayers MGL. Prominent exostosis projecting from the occipital squama more substantial and prevalent in young adult than older age groups. Scientific Reports. 8;3354:20 Feb 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21625-1 

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Teng CC, Chai H, Lai DM, Wang SF. Cervicocephalic kinesthetic sensibility in young and middle-aged adults with or without a history of mild neck pain. Man Ther. 2007 Feb;12(1):22-8. Epub 2006 Jun 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16777468

Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707074