Arthritis is a condition that effects the musculoskeletal system, and in particular the joints where two or more bones meet. Over 100 different forms of arthritis have been identified and classified.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is considered a degenerative condition related to wear and tear, as opposed to most other forms of arthritis that are considered inflammatory conditions.
The different forms of arthritis vary according to age of onset, joints typically affected and the signs and symptoms involved. For example ‘Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis’ affects multiple joints and is most common in females under 16 years. ‘Gout’ on the other hand, is an arthritic condition typically affecting the big toe in men over 50.
Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another) and surrounding structures. This can result in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks such as walking, driving a car and preparing food. Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain. In Australia 3.4 million (out of 21 million) people are affected, at a cost to the economy of more than $19 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production. The incidence of arthritic problems is increasing with an ageing population.
There is a widely held belief that arthritis is simply a consequence of age, the pain of growing old. But it is not a natural part of ageing. In fact 60 percent of all people suffering from the disease are of working age. While there are about 100 forms of arthritis, the three most significant – osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout – account for more than 95 percent of cases.
Chiropractic has its most direct positive effect on osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is most common in weight bearing joints such as the spine and hips. To explain how osteoarthritis develops, use the analogy of the tyres on your car.
Driving produces wear and tear on the tyres, eventually causing them to wear out. If the wheel alignment is out of balance tyres will wear unevenly and faster than is the wheels are aligned. A similar situation applies with the body. With age we eventually show signs of wear and tear, however, if our body is out of balance, this process may be accelerated.
Visits to your chiropractor to correct imbalances due to injury or poor posture can activate your nervous system and improve joint and muscle function. A better functioning join improves nutrition to the cartilage and may potentially reduce the development of osteoarthritis. An existing osteoarthritic problem may also respond well to gentle chiropractic care, making life more pleasant and manageable.
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