Arthritis Doesn’t Have to Mean It’s Time to Slow Down
New Expectations and New Advice for Today’s Arthritis
If you or someone you care about is suffering from arthritis, you should know
that arthritis doesn’t have to mean an end to an active lifestyle. Prior generations may
have accepted the condition as an inevitable part of aging and been given a standard
prescription of bed rest and drug therapies. However, today’s health care professionals
recognize that appropriate exercise and nutrition are also critical to managing arthritis
effectively, and they can recommend a much wider range of treatment options. Your chiropractor
can play an important role, not only in relieving pain, but also in helping patients with
arthritis continue to live a more independent, active lifestyle.
Understanding Arthritis and its Lifestyle Effects
Arthritis is not really one medical condition. Rather, it’s a more general
term that refers to inflammation that may affect joints and other parts of the body as a
result of more than 100 “rheumatic diseases”, such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and
rheumatoid arthritis. These disorders destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other
connective tissues. While arthritis is most often seen in middle aged and older adults, it
can also afflict younger people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), more than 22% of American adults (about 50 million people) report having
been diagnosed with arthritis. Their symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss
of function in the joints.
While the general public is
aware that arthritis is painful, fewer people recognize just how severe and widespread the
debilitating effects of arthritis actually are. People with arthritis may experience difficulty
with everyday tasks like buttoning shirts or opening packages and containers. They may also find
that arthritis limits their mobility. This could prevent them from participating in their favorite
activities or spending time with friends and family. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
issued a Bulletin in October 1999 that ranked arthritis as a more frequent cause of activity
limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. More than ten years later, the CDC estimates
that 21 million Americans face some type of disability as a result of arthritis. These kinds of
statistics suggest that strategies for managing arthritis need to address goals beyond pain relief
if they are to be truly successful.
How Your Chiropractor Can Help
For many arthritis sufferers, treatment still begins with rest and medication.
But if you have arthritis, a chiropractic physician can help you develop a well-rounded,
long-term approach to managing your arthritis in two other very important ways:
· Designing an exercise program based on your own unique requirements. Such a
program usually focuses on a combination of goals, including (1) restoring any lost range of
motion in your joints, (2) improving your flexibility and endurance, and (3) increasing your
muscle tone and strength. Numerous clinical studies have
demonstrated that inactivity can make joints affected by arthritis even more painful and
stiff. It can also have other negative health effects. A properly
designed and supervised exercise program can reduce these risks.
· Suggesting dietary changes and/or nutritional supplements that
may be effective in reducing or controlling inflammation in your joints. Some research indicates
that certain foods can have a role in either increasing or suppressing the body’s natural
inflammatory response. Making adjustments to your diet may reduce swelling, redness and pain
related to arthritis.
Your chiropractor will help you make ongoing adjustments to both your exercise and nutrition programs based on your own progress so that you get the maximum health benefit with minimum discomfort and risk.
Communication is Key
Keep in mind that some types of physical activity and dietary supplements may
actually do more harm than good depending on the specific nature of your arthritis, the
joints involved and your current treatment plan. So open communication with all the members
of your healthcare team—including your chiropractor, family doctor and any specialists you’re
working with—is the key to achieving results safely!
Both the symptoms and underlying
causes of arthritis can vary a great deal by individual, so it is important that you consult your
healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and to put in place a treatment plan that’s right for
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