Arthritis is one of the most common conditions in the US. Despite this, though, there’s a lot of misinformation about it. There are actually more than one hundred different kinds of arthritis, and they all affect the body in different ways. Some are caused by the immune system, while others are caused by normal wear-and-tear on the joints.
So will a chiropractor treat back pain caused by arthritis? The answer is: maybe. It depends on how your arthritis affects you, and then on whether your chiropractor deems it safe to manipulate your spine.
Chiropractors do a thorough physical examination before recommending treatment. If they can’t recommend a treatment plan, they’ll typically refer you to a medical professional. There is very little risk to seeing a chiropractor for a consultation, provided they’re properly licensed.
Many arthritis sufferers experience stiff necks and back pain. A chiropractor is trained in spinal manipulation, which means that they can gently realign the bones and reset the joints. There’s a lot of research proving that chiropractic care is effective for certain types of back pain, but there are also benefits beyond pain relief.
Spinal adjustments may sound intimidating. But they tend to be fairly gentle. Chiropractors can use more than 150 different techniques to manipulate the joints, muscles, and spine.
Some people can benefit from more forceful adjustments. But people with arthritis tend to need a more gentle touch. Chiropractors often treat arthritic patients with methods similar to physical therapy. If you have arthritis, your chiropractor might:
- Manipulate painful soft tissues to relieve inflammation and muscle spasms
- Show you stretching routines that help increase range of motion and relieve stiffness
- Give you active exercises to do at home to continue strengthening your muscles
- Evaluate your posture to determine whether it may be contributing to your pain
- Offer advice regarding lifestyle adjustments to your exercise, diet, or environment
When you embark on your first visit, the first thing the chiropractor will do is take your medical history. Then they’ll perform a physical examination, and then they’ll recommend a treatment plan. For arthritic patients, your chiropractor might order imaging tests like X-rays before determining a plan.
Is Chiropractic Care for Arthritis Safe?
Some of this may depend on the type of arthritis you have.
Neurologists, researchers, and other experts have determined that chiropractic therapy is among the safest for osteoarthritis patients. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage that cushions your bones to wear away. It’s most common in older people. With this condition, spinal manipulation can alleviate painful pressure and grinding of your joints.
But those same experts recommend using caution when you have an inflammatory condition. This includes conditions like:
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
When you’re not in the middle of a flare-up, you may be able to seek chiropractic care. But certain people shouldn’t undergo spinal manipulation at all. If you have any of these conditions, spinal adjustments may become dangerous:
- Osteoporosis in your back or neck
- A fused spine
- Active sites of inflammation
- Swollen joints
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t seek chiropractic care. Even if your chiropractor can’t manipulate your joints safely, they can offer a variety of other treatment options.
Ultrasound technology can be used to massage your inflamed joints. This reduces pain, stiffness, and swelling. Electrotherapy is also available to stimulate the muscles and nerves. The little pulses of electricity aren’t painful.
“Cold laser” technology uses non-heated light to penetrate the tissue. Studies show that this has the potential to reduce inflammation.
Some chiropractors have an infrared sauna in their practice. This is a room that uses controlled heat to increase your circulation and provide pain relief. Essentially, it works like a compress that heats the inside of your joints rather than just the outside.
Your chiropractor may not be able to move your arthritic joint. But they are capable of treating many of the problems in the surrounding soft tissues. While this won’t cure your arthritis, it has been shown to have a significant impact on pain levels.
As of 2017, the American College of Physicians recommends that people seek chiropractic care before they use over-the-counter pain relievers. Chiropractors have significantly fewer side effects than over-the-counter medications, and they tend to provide more long-lasting results.
To make an appointment to start treating your arthritis, give us a call at 205-637-1363.